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Topic Title: Solve the fossil fuel problem.
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Created On: 28 June 2004 09:50 PM
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 28 June 2004 09:50 PM
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DavidLenaghan

Posts: 182
Joined: 16 January 2002

Hi everyone,

Forgive me for playing the devil's advocate here but I thought I would put forward a controvertial view to get people talking and discussing since there seems to be few doing that at the moment.

I propose that the only way the industrialised nations will truly get away from fossil fuels will be when they are all used up. I suggest that it is the nature of mankind to seek out the easiest way to do something. It is almost impossible to convince people to do something which will make life more difficult in the short term when there is an easier option available.

Thus I propose that we should use up ALL fossil fuels so that the more polluting energy route is no longer possible.

Let the discussion begin!

For those of you who would dismiss my reasoning I would like to ask a more rational question. "How do we convince people that a small amount of inconvenience and thought required to use energy more efficiently will make a real difference to the future of the planet?"


All the best

David Lenaghan


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David Lenaghan
 29 June 2004 03:40 PM
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sedgwicknc

Posts: 107
Joined: 20 October 2001

David Lenaghan wrote:

Quote

I propose that the only way the industrialised nations will truly get away from fossil fuels will be when they are all used up. I suggest that it is the nature of mankind to seek out the easiest way to do something. It is almost impossible to convince people to do something which will make life more difficult in the short term when there is an easier option available.


Careful! With views like that, you might be made prime minister.

And then:

Quote

Thus I propose that we should use up ALL fossil fuels so that the more polluting energy route is no longer possible.


That is, I believe, what we are doing.

On a more general point on global warming from greenhouse gasses (and carbon dioxide especially):

Where did all those fossil fuels come from? Vegatation and small sea creatures!

Where did they get their carbon from? Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (and water) and/or eating things that got it from there.

So, once upon a time, all that carbon was in the atmosphere (and oceans) and now it's going back there.

What's so bad about this? Well it might change things, eg by making them warmer.Also, sea levels might rise a bit too.

Won't we be able to cope? Yes, because it's going to take a long time, not happen suddenly.

So what's the problem? Good question!

Best regards


-------------------------
sedgwicknc
 02 July 2004 12:18 PM
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deleted_joduthie

Posts: 1
Joined: 10 September 2002

Quote


Where did all those fossil fuels come from? Vegatation and small sea creatures!

Where did they get their carbon from? Carbon dioxide in the atmosphere (and water) and/or eating things that got it from there.

So, once upon a time, all that carbon was in the atmosphere (and oceans) and now it's going back there.



I cannot argue with that statement....
Quote


What's so bad about this? Well it might change things, eg by making them warmer.Also, sea levels might rise a bit too.



.. but it took millions of years for the carbon to be converted from little sea creatures into oil.
We have reversed the process in a few hundred. The little sea creatures aren't gobbling all the CO2 up fast enough.
Quote



Won't we be able to cope? Yes, because it's going to take a long time, not happen suddenly.



This is open to debate...

It's unlikely to happen overnight, I agree, but perceptible changes in weather patterns are occuring. The result of these are not fully understood but when have the weather men got their forecasts correct??

Quote


So what's the problem? Good question!



There are many problems that we in the developed world haven't even considered yet. What happens when the rest of the world catches up with our unrestricted fossil fuel consumption?? We might have a fight on our hands then...
 04 July 2004 02:36 PM
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DavidLenaghan

Posts: 182
Joined: 16 January 2002

Hi there,

I am impressd that I have stired up some comment. I would like to try to address my own question to push the discussion onto another level.

I think that most people are agreed on the following statements.

1. The climbate and environemnt is being dramatically changed by human activity.
2. It is difficult to quantify the impact that human activity is having on the weather systems and eco systems of the world.
3. No one really knows what will happen when fossil fules actually do run out and human activity has to be supported via some alternative energy source.
4. Fossil fulels can not be replaced quickly.
5. People will continue to have important needs which should be satisfied. The need to eat. The need to support their own family. The need to live.


With all thses confusing and conflicting issues in my mind I would like to propose a radical and far reaching possible solution.

I feel that the thing that we should be aiming for is balance. So in line with Newthon's Third law (for every action there should be an equal and opposite rection) we should be building and designing sytems that counteract the damaging effect of human activity on the environment and the climbate.

With this in mind I was thinking that we need to build some sort of planetary correcting stations. A bit like a power station but it would take in the air and process it. Removing carbon and other greenhouse gasses so that the "correct" level is achieved. Something similar could be built for seawater so that heavy metals and radioactive waste could be removed from it.

As someone who works in the power industry perhaps it is obvious that I would suggest a future solution of the above kind.

Thinking more deeply though there are natural ways in which the earth heals itself. As sedgwicknc pointed out there are plants and small sea creaures which caputre Carbon Dioxide from the environment and use it in their life cycle. Perhaps the populations of these creatures could be monitored closely to make sure their numbers do not fall below or rise above certain levels.

But I see a great danger here. You can only really control something successfully if you can measure it accurately. Both measure where it currently is and measure where you want it to be. I don't believe that we have sufficient technology to monitor our planet in enough detail to make the big decisions on what is required to maintain climbate stability. Please disagree if you know differently.

So after all my mental meanderings I think I have a plan for combating climbate change and environmental degredation.

1. Monitor the environment to a very high level of detail.
2. Monitor natural envirnmental fluctuations and highlight man made influences.
3. Take action to counteract the man made fluctuations without disturbing natural environmental cycles.

Notice I didn't say that it would be easy. Does this sounds like a good plan to you? I certainly think it is better than my initial proposal. The hard part would be to convice every country in the world to take the appropriate action when required. I think this issue is a bit bigger than the three of us.

All the best







-------------------------
David Lenaghan
 15 July 2004 08:01 PM
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sashi

Posts: 154
Joined: 18 January 2003

Hiya,

Wow, the planetary correcting stations really caught my attention! Every new venture starts off with a brave idea before resulting in fruition. So if the idea does take off, the IEE's Engineering for a Sustainable Future Forum would deserve some credit! Watch this space.

Jokes aside, I think a major issue is the commitment required of individual countries. Clearly we know that the environment is changing. Clearly we know that there is a problem, but countries may choose to push it under the rug, or refuse to acknowledge it - seeing it a threat to their industrial prowess. The US for instance has distanced itself from key treaties regarding the environment. At the end of the day, it becomes a political issue, not an environmental one!

Sashi

-------------------------
Dr S Sivathasan, DPhil CEng
PRI IPRA (Queensland)

Edited: 15 July 2004 at 08:05 PM by sashi
 16 July 2004 12:54 AM
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DavidLenaghan

Posts: 182
Joined: 16 January 2002

Hi sahsi,

I was worried I had dumfounded everyone with such a science fiction idea.

It occurs to me that an incredible amount of change has happened to the earth's environemnt since the dawn of the industrial revolution. If we were to embark on a project to return the atmosphere and all the eco systems to the state that they were in 1820 how much effort and energy would be required?

I know that this would be an unrealistic aim but it makes you think about the scale of the issue that we are trying to tackle here and that it will take the efforts of every man woman and child on the planet to do their little bit to undo the damage that has been done.

I still remain hopeful.

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David Lenaghan
 29 July 2004 04:06 PM
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bne

Posts: 18
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Quote

Originally posted by: DavidLenaghan
... a project to return ...l the eco systems to the state that they were in 1820 how much effort and energy would be required?


First of all, we would need to genetically reconstitute all the thousands of species we have wilfully made extinct in the 180-odd years.

I live on an island that was generously sprayed with DDT between 1949 and 1953, yes, every cm2 of it, indoors and out, twice a year. We no longer have endemic malaria, but the whole biodiversity of the island has changed drastically, including the extinction of many species, animal and vegetable, including some endemic ones which have been lost for ever. Of course, this is not a unique reason for the changes, but it's a major one. Very few of the changes have been for the better.

So, I would say that a return to the 1820s (or even 1950) is an impossibility.

On the initial premisses of this thread, the fossil fuel problem is, in the long run, self-regulating. Australia and Britain have already reached and passed peak oil, estimates for global peak vary from 2005 to 2040 (probably 2010-2015 realistically, unless there is a drastic reduction in consumption patterns, in the meanwhile). Prices will rocket after peak (in USD). I suggest that $100/barrel will be reached in 4 or 5 years and $250 by 2020. By then, the USD will be subject to massive inflation, as a result, that we may be paying, in today's Euro, possibly only 50/barrel. This will be a direct result of the Bush Administration's energy and environmental policies (or lack thereof). When the US consumer fills his SUV at $20 or 25/gallon, the country's consumption will finally fall. As for GHGs, I see no possibility for significant improvement until the US joins the rest of the world and uses its clout to force the recalcitrant major consumers like India and China to follow suit. This will obviously be a no-no if Bush were to be re-elected, but Kerry? I've no idea.

Brian

 31 October 2004 11:57 AM
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lel1

Posts: 21
Joined: 28 November 2002

David, Initially I thought your idea was great, however after a few minutes I thought it's just another senario where we fix the results and not the cause.

I am a great believer in helping nature take care of itself, but when faced with mans onslaught it needs a helping hand. So how about we just replace all the rain forests that we've cut down?(and add more) Wouldn't that be the equivalent of what you were suggesting?
It is in line with Newthon's Third law and nature has already built and designed sytems that counteract the damaging effect of human activity on the environment and the climate.


Edited: 31 October 2004 at 01:19 PM by lel1
 31 October 2004 07:43 PM
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DavidLenaghan

Posts: 182
Joined: 16 January 2002

Iel1,

It has been ages since someone posted a message to this group. I was beginning to think no one cared about this issue.

Yes I agree with you that replacing the rainforest that has been destroyed would probably go a long way to counteracting human activity. Now it is more a question of how we do that. It is more of a problem in developing countries where the population are forced to cut down the trees for farmland or fuel because there is no alternative for their survival. These people do not have the luxury of stepping back and viewing their actions in a world contect. Putting food on the table is their main concern. I think this is the patern in many parts of the world where economic factors outweigh sustainability.

The main question is how do we give them an alternative? How do we build an opportunity for them to live in harmony with their environment rather than in conflict wih it?

I never ask easy questions.

:-)

All the best

David



-------------------------
David Lenaghan
 31 October 2004 09:16 PM
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lel1

Posts: 21
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Mmm.... yes, I am begining to think the same about the forums I've just set as well (wavepower.hosted-forums.com)

If these people don't have the luxuries you speak of, then who was going to fund the systems you described to purify the air? Anyway who said anything about developing countries having to plant the trees, the rest of the world could get together and fund it, or each make a contribution. These developing countries could charge rents for the areas or maintainence of said forests.

Its a sad fact where the inhabitants of one part of the planet are spending thousands on items of personal clothing and in the other part the occupants can't find the next meal. When this question is put to the governments in question, the answers are basically in the form of, 'well what good are these people anyway, they're no use to anybody. If you want to feed them, you do it.' or 'It's our country, we'll run it the way we see fit, we don't tell you how to run yours'.

I did wonder though, should we all have a use?

Planting trees should have incentives and cutting them down should be heavily taxed, similar to the governments policy on building/planning regulations whereby I've read they have adopted a system that if you build an energy efficient dwelling theres no penalty, and you pay through the nose if you don't.

All I'm saying is that the tree method is the simplest way and is self maintaining, also trees are integrateable with the surrounding environment, or could be.

If we hadn't cut so many trees down would the current CO2 emmissions be consumed by the forests?


Edited: 31 October 2004 at 09:18 PM by lel1
 03 November 2004 08:37 PM
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DavidLenaghan

Posts: 182
Joined: 16 January 2002

Dear all,

I think everyone who reads this should plant a tree.

Although that probably would not solve the fossil fuel problem it is a nice thing to do in your garden on a sunny day.

David

-------------------------
David Lenaghan
 10 November 2004 11:29 PM
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lel1

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What a nice idea
 03 June 2009 09:46 AM
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DavidLenaghan

Posts: 182
Joined: 16 January 2002

Dear all,

It is time we looked again at this. There is an event being organised on this subject in Reading next week. Tuesday 9th June 2009. It will be called the Great Climate Changing Debate.

http://www.theiet.org/local/uk/thames/berks/gccd.cfm

If you are interested then please register and come along. The event is completely free.

I look forward to seeing you there.

-------------------------
David Lenaghan
 30 October 2009 12:02 AM
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durham

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Joined: 29 October 2009

Hi

I'm a First Year Engineering Student. I was doing some research for an essay, when I found your posts. My essay was about Ethics and Engineering and my area of focus was on "Fossil Fuels: The ethics of using the world's finite resources and any resultant enviornmental damage."

Above (and sometime ago!), the radical idea of "planetary correcting stations" was discussed. I found this interesting since my team and I had a similar idea at a Headstart Science and Engineering Course (a taster University course) last summer. Our task was to produce a documentary about the predicted effects of climate change in 2058 and the imagined, future reality of the situation. One of our main ideas for our imaginary future reality was a vacuum cleaner for the atmosphere to remove harmful emissions such as carbon dioxide. Whilst this seems like an unrealistic idea from science fiction, it was interesting to see a similar idea mentioned in this forum. Perhaps with continued advances in technology, "planetary correction systems" may become closer to reality in the future. Having said that, carbon capture technology is a step in the right direction.

However, as someone has already pointed out, "planetary correction systems" would not solve the root of the problem and so draws attention away from the real issue - the use of fossil fuels (and other finite resources)

Nevertheless, I suggest that both finding alternatives to fossil fuels and attempting to counteract the environmental damage should be the way forward..

Anyhow, having read these posts, I shall plant a tree on a sunny day!

One question though, does anybody know anything about the installation of solar collectors on asphalt surfaces (roads) in order to convert heat into electricity? I initially heard about this through the ICE.
 01 November 2009 04:34 AM
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jonny27

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Hi,

I lived in Brazil for a number of years. Where I lived in Sao Paulo State, you could drive for mile after mile through sugar cane plantations. I believe the cane was harvested twice a year and used to make alcohol and depending on the grade, the alcohol was used for car fuel, cleaning products and drinking.

I had a GM Zafira Flex ... Flex being it would run on petrol, alcohol or a mix of the 2. It had a small petrol tank, 1 or 2 liters that was used to start the engine when it was cold. I would alway run the car on alcohol and once a month, would put 1/2 a tank of petrol just to flush through the system. The engine produced a little more torque with alcohol, however the MPG was not quite as good, BUT it was 1/2 the price of petrol, so I was $$$ in.

The fact Brazil had a green fuel that if they needed more, they could plan more sugar cane, should put them in a very strong global position, however whilst I was there, it was never seen as a real asset. I guess this will change more and more in coming years.

On the downside to sugar cane, after a harvest, they would burn off the fields in the same way as the UK farmers would burn stubble. At nights, all you could see was fire for mile after mile, the smut was terrible and my girls always has asthma, this went when we moved back to the UK.

I have seen a few bi / flex fuel cars over here. I believe Morrisons sell ethanol in a few of there fuel stations. When it becomes more readily available, I would buy a bi / flex fuel car. Whilst the technology is new here, its tried and tested and works very well.

Jon
 10 November 2009 09:43 PM
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durham

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Hi

Jon, the bi / flex fuel cars are relatively sustainable (as far as I understand) since approximately the equivalent amount of carbon emitted during the combustion of the biofuel is absorbed during the growth of the biofuel by photosynthesis. (I'm sure you have more technological knowledge on this than myself!).

However, I have one major concern about the widespread use of biofuel. Is the land that is used for growing biofuel using tertile farmland that could be used to feed the millions of people that suffer from malnourishment? I think about one-sixth of the world's population are in this position.
So perhaps the use of biofuel can only be an intermediate solution until more efficient renewable energy resources can fully replace fossil fuels.

On a completely different note, Sao Paulo sounds like an interesting place to visit - I studied it for various case studies in A-Level Geography!
 12 November 2009 07:59 PM
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mbirdi

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Nuclear Fusion as well as sun, wind and sea power will provide the energy resources of the future. In the case of Nuclear Fusion, the natural resources required to produce Fusion (joining of light atoms in a plasma at 150 million degrees C) comes from Deuterium (Hydrogen 2 from sea water) and Tritium (Hydrogen 3). Deuterium is in abundance and is available for millions of years. Lithium is found in the earths crust, but small amounts are required at the start of the Fusion process to kick start the production of Tritium which then continues to be produced whilst Fusion reaction takes place. There is no pollution or greenhouse gases produced, but only Helium, making Nuclear Fusion inherently safer compared to Nuclear Fission reactors that work on the principle of splitting atoms.

The present experimental Fusion Reactor (called JET for Joint European Torus) in Culham, Oxfordshire has produced 16MW of Fusion power, the same amount as that put in. A new experimental reactor called ITER in the South of France, is currently being built. Experiments are expected to start in 2012 where it is expected to produce 500MW of Fusion power, generating 10 times the power put in.

It is estimated that full scale Nuclear Fusion reactor(s) will be established 30 years from now which will solve the problem of shortage of fossil fuel and carbon emmission. Although it won't solve the problem of how to get rid of the carbon that's already in the atmosphere? I guess we'll have to plant more trees then!

Edited: 21 December 2009 at 08:30 PM by mbirdi
 24 August 2013 10:33 PM
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DavidLenaghan

Posts: 182
Joined: 16 January 2002

Anyone want to add some further thoughts in light of fracking?

-------------------------
David Lenaghan
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