(Roughly) Daily

Posts Tagged ‘energy

“The use of alternative energy is inevitable”*…

Mining for coltan–essential to the modern electronics that make alternative energy possible– in North Kivu, Congo, September 2013

Contemplating the unintended– or at least not-yet-widely-anticipated– consequences of a move to green energy…

It is not hard to understand why people dream of a future defined by clean energy. As greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow and as extreme weather events become more frequent and harmful, the current efforts to move beyond fossil fuels appear woefully inadequate. Adding to the frustration, the geopolitics of oil and gas are alive and well—and as fraught as ever. Europe is in the throes of a full-fledged energy crisis, with staggering electricity prices forcing businesses across the continent to shutter and energy firms to declare bankruptcy, positioning Russian President Vladimir Putin to take advantage of his neighbors’ struggles by leveraging his country’s natural gas reserves. In September, blackouts reportedly led Chinese Vice Premier Han Zheng to instruct his country’s state-owned energy companies to secure supplies for winter at any cost. And as oil prices surge above $80 per barrel, the United States and other energy-hungry countries are pleading with major producers, including Saudi Arabia, to ramp up their output, giving Riyadh more clout in a newly tense relationship and suggesting the limits of Washington’s energy “independence.”

Proponents of clean energy hope (and sometimes promise) that in addition to mitigating climate change, the energy transition will help make tensions over energy resources a thing of the past. It is true that clean energy will transform geopolitics—just not necessarily in the ways many of its champions expect. The transition will reconfigure many elements of international politics that have shaped the global system since at least World War II, significantly affecting the sources of national power, the process of globalization, relations among the great powers, and the ongoing economic convergence of developed countries and developing ones. The process will be messy at best. And far from fostering comity and cooperation, it will likely produce new forms of competition and confrontation long before a new, more copacetic geopolitics takes shape…

The new geopolitics of energy: “Green Upheaval,” by Jason Bodoff (@JasonBordoff) and Meghan L. O’Sullivan (@OSullivanMeghan) in @ForeignAffairs.

See also: “The Geopolitics of Energy in the 21st Century.”

Gawdat Bahgat

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As we think systemically, we might recall that it was on this date in 1925 that Arthur Heineman opened the Milestone Mo-Tel in San Luis Obispo (on the road from San Francisco to Los Angeles)… the first “motel.” Heineman had abbreviated motor hotel to mo-tel after he could not fit the words “Milestone Motor Hotel” on his rooftop.

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“Energy is liberated matter, matter is energy waiting to happen”*…

 

Energy_US_2019

 

In 2019, Americans used less energy than in 2018, according to the most recent energy flow charts released by Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory (LLNL).

Each year, LLNL releases flow charts that illustrate the nation’s consumption and use of energy. Americans used 100.2 quads (quadrillion BTU) of energy, which is 1 quad less than last year. The highest recorded energy use in American history was in 2018, when 101.2 quads were consumed. A BTU, or British Thermal Unit, is a unit of measurement for energy; 3,412 BTUs is equivalent to 1 kilowatt-hour, which is the amount of energy it takes to light an efficient LED light bulb for a week.

For the second year in a row, the largest increases in energy supply came from natural gas, wind and solar energy, with jumps of 4 percent, 10 percent and 8 percent, respectively. Solar energy supply exceeded 1 quad for the first time ever as more users turned to renewables. Wind and solar combined now produce more electricity than hydroelectric power, which dominated renewable energy for decades…

One notes that just over two thirds of the energy consumed is “rejected” (lost to heat or other dissipation; not converted to its intended use)…

The shift from coal to gas also has contributed to a drop in rejected energy, because natural gas power plants are more efficient than the coal-fired units they replace. All energy use and conversion results in some losses, shown on the charts as rejected energy. Last year saw 1 quad less in rejected energy than in 2018. This energy most often takes the form of waste heat, such as the warm exhaust from automobiles and furnaces. The efficiency of the nation’s cars, light bulbs and factories determines how much waste heat is produced and how much fuel and electricity can be put to productive use…

More at “Americans used less energy in 2019.” For a larger version of the chart above, go here (or here for all of the charts over time).  See also “Visualizing America’s Energy Use, in One Giant Chart.”

* Bill Bryson, A Short History of Nearly Everything

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As we emphasize efficiency, we might recall that it was on this date in 1869 that the first U.S. Transcontinental Railway was ceremonially completed with the driving of the “Golden Spike.”  Known as the “Pacific Railroad” when it opened, it served as a vital channel for trade, commerce, and travel– for the first time, shipping and commerce could thrive away from navigable waterways– and it opened vast regions of the North American heartland for settlement.

(In fact, while not “transcontinental” in the same sense, the first railroad to connect two oceans directly, the Panama Rail Road, opened in 1855, when a locomotive made the first trek from the Atlantic to the Pacific.)

At the ceremony for the driving of the “Golden Spike” at Promontory Summit, Utah, May 10, 1869

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

May 10, 2020 at 1:01 am

“I’ve developed a new philosophy. I only dread one day at a time.”*…

 

Peanutz2

 

Starting [last] month, the very talented Adam Koford, the creator of Laugh-Out-Loud Cats webcomic, started posting these wonderful bootleg Peanuts comics to his Twitter account, and continued almost every day since.

Loose and sketchy, they capture the essence of Charles Schultz’ Peanuts so well: sweet and sad, combining childlike wonder and existential dread. As he went on, they started evolving a unique style of their own, distinct from the Peanuts characters but still recognizable….

Via Andy Baio‘s wonderful site Waxy.  The “Peanuts” panels are strewn through Adam’s Twitter feed; as a gift to us all, Baio collected a bunch of them into a Twitter “Moment.”

Enjoy… and don’t mention it to the Schultz estate.

* Charlie Brown

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As we ruminate on reality, we might recall that today’s a relative-ly good day for it, as it was on this date in 1900 that German physicist Max Planck presented and published his study of the effect of radiation on a “black-body” substance (introducing what we’ve come to know as the Planck Postulate), and the quantum theory of modern physics– and for that matter, Twentieth Century modernity– were born.

Planck study demonstrated that in certain situations energy exhibits the characteristics of physical matter– something unthinkable at the time, when energy was thought to exist only in wave form– and suggested that energy exists in discrete packets, which he called “quanta”… thus laying the foundation on which he, Einstein, Bohr, Schrodinger, Dirac, and others built our modern understanding.

220px-Max_Planck_1933Max Planck

 

Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 14, 2019 at 1:01 am

“Sure, everything is ending… but not yet.”*…

 

From 365 CE to 10100 years from now, apocalyptic predictions and who made them: the interactive “Timeline of When the World Ended.” (Lots of notice for our old friend Harold Camping.)

* Jennifer Egan, A Visit from the Goon Squad

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As we sharpen a Sense of the The Ending, we might recall that it was on this date in 1942 that a team of scientists led by Enrico Fermi, working inside an enormous tent on a squash court under the stands of the University of Chicago’s Stagg Field, achieved the first controlled nuclear fission chain reaction… laying the foundation for the atomic bomb and later, nuclear power generation.

“…the Italian Navigator has just landed in the New World…”
– Coded telephone message confirming first self-sustaining nuclear chain reaction, December 2, 1942.

Illustration depicting the scene on Dec. 2, 1942 (Photo copyright of Chicago Historical Society)

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Indeed, exactly 15 years later, on this date in 1957, the world’s first full-scale atomic electric power plant devoted exclusively to peacetime uses, the Shippingport Atomic Power Station, reached criticality; the first power was produced 16 days later, after engineers integrated the generator into the distribution grid of Duquesne Light Company.

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Written by (Roughly) Daily

December 2, 2015 at 1:01 am

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