Excellent Answers to the Wrong Problem

Let’s remember why we’re doing what we’re doing.

I’m particularly concerned about the concequences of ocean acidification. My research involved a plethora of liquid phase reactions; I’m quite familiar with equillibria. The oceans taking up carbon dioxide always brings to mind titrations.

That’s sodium hydroxide neutralising hydrochloric acid. The phenolphthalein indicator abruptly turns the whole flask pink when the end point is reached. “End point” is an unsettling term in this analogy.

McDowell posted another presentation from a pair of electrical engineers. These are the sorts of professionals who actually have to design and build the things to get electricity from whatever generates it to us and to businesses and industries.

Quote of the Year:

You could spend a lifetime coming up with excellent answers to the wrong problem.”

There are various renewable energy plans for Australia, other regions and the whole world which are periodically released to rapturous fanfare. They do not stand up to objective scrutiny very well. It is irresponsible to avoid applying a list of pertinent conditions, such as this excellent checklist, to what they should achieve and how they’ll achieve it. It is crucial to be clear on these details:

1. IS CO2 (or equivalent) EMITTED IN OPERATION?
– How much?
– Is it necessitated by intermittency?
– Real offsets (i.e. biofuel combustion, replanting, fertilisers)?
– Other, non-GHG emissions?
2. ARE ALL COSTS INTERNALISED?
– Transmission to/upgrade of grid?
– Reliance on other technology?
– Environmental costs?
3. HAS THE SPECIFIC TECHNOLOGY BEEN BUILT BEFORE?
– FOAK/NOAK?
– Scalability of preceding, related technology?
– Hoping for breakthroughs?
4. WILL THERE BE ENOUGH?
– Overbuild of intermittent sources to fill assumed storage?
– Supply for electrified cars, trains, heating?
– Confidence of industry in reliability of supply?
– Desalination?
5. TELLTALE SIGNS OF ‘ANYTHING-BUT-NUCLEAR’ PROPOSALS?
– No or brief, dismissive mention of nuclear?
– Purported issues with nuclear cited as reason for its exclusion?
– Other technologies specified as sufficient to address emissions mitigation, energy supply without nuclear?

I, and my fellow ecomodernists, cop it a bit for apparently “dumping on renewables”, but we do no such thing. Wind and solar are impressive technologies but if they can truly fulfil everything asked of them from Anything-But-Nuclear energy plans then their proponents should be gladly meeting the challenge of proving their suitability when hard analysis is demanded. And it must be demanded, because the greatest effort yet in a modern, advanced nation to decarbonise via renewable energy is, so far, a ghastly mockery of itself.

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Compare South Australia’s newly opened Four Mile uranium mine, utilising in situ leaching, for a fuel of considerably higher energy density.

log_scale

There is only a single “right problem” that should be the focus. Using more of that uranium in more modern reactors so we can burn less and less of that dirt is the most excellent answer of all.

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