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Total number of comments: 10 (since 2013-11-28 16:32:46)

Don K

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  • What if? and the Meltdown Threat
    • Professor, Your ideas about energy are well intentioned, and have some validity. As far as I know, Japan can and probably should, expand wind and solar power generation. But overall, your ideas are incredibly naive. There is nothing wrong with wind power in modest amounts. It's a good idea. In modest amounts. But it almost certainly is not capable of doing what you wish it to do -- power advanced societies. (Denmark works because it can draw on non-wind power via the European grid when it needs it). Solar might be able to do better, but not without a number of decades of R&D and vastly improved energy storage.

      In the meantime the problem is how to provide decent amounts of energy to 6 (eventually 9) billion people; and feeding those people; and getting them water; while coping with the economic affects of running out of cheap oil.

      That's already a probably unsolvable problem. Trying to eliminate nuclear power and carbon emissions on top of that is wildly optimistic

      I urge you to dig out the numbers (e.g. btu per capita per day), where those btu come from, and where they go. It will take you a good deal of time and thought to understand the dimensions of the problem.

      In the meantime, I recommend reading the material at the EIA and similar websites. In particular, you should check in every day or three at which has really good articles on energy production and usage. (I'd skip the comments there for now. The end is nigh and we're all gonna die by next Tuesday gets old quickly).

      Anyway, I find your posts on energy embarrassing. And I suspect that someday you will also. I would strongly urge you to do some homework if you plan to keep on posting on energy related subjects.

  • Egyptians Defy Protest Ban, Plan big Rallies for Friday; Death toll Rises to 6
    • Professor: I know just about nothing about the Middle East. My total experience was a trip through the from Freemantle to Southampton via Suez in 1966 on a decrepit Italian passenger ship. My two lasting impressions were that British military patrols in Aden couldn't possibly accomplish anything other than to keep the local communists from practicing close order drill in the main square (the British bailed out a couple of years later), and of extreme, grinding, poverty in Aden and Cairo.

      I'm sure things have changed. Nonetheless, I wonder if you could clarify what percentage of the population in, for example, Egypt can afford internet access, and what the demographics of the group that uses Twitter and Facebook in Egypt might be.

  • Iran's Oily Revenge on US Drivers, US Troops
    • ***Meanwhile, the US is back to using 20 million barrels a day of petroleum***

      Probably not. The EIA -- which is generally pretty good says 18.46 mbpd with the difference being speculation.

      link to

      That said, we really need to get down to about 8-10mbpd over the next couple of decades. And since we have neither a plan nor anyone seriously working on a plan, I reckon we're going to achieve energy independence the hard way -- stumbling from crisis to crisis -- rather than the easy way.

  • Lawsuit over Drones in Pakistan forces CIA Station Chief to Flee
    • Just a point that we should all keep in mind, but usually don't. In the US, intelligence agencies like the CIA usually combine two functions -- collection of data on foreign countries and covert action. IMO, combining the two is rather bad idea. Data collection may be unpopular with those whose data is collected, but it rarely presents ethical problems unless blackmail or intimidation are involved. Mostly, it's pretty mundane actually.

      Covert action makes for good books, movies and TV. But it is often ill-considered, morally/ethically questionable, and sometimes clearly illegal.

      IMO, we'd do ourselves an enormous favor, if we separated the two activities completely and used covert action only where it is clearly and unambiguously warranted.

  • Looking for PETN, Scanning Grandma at the Airport, and the Future of Air Travel
    • I reckon that you are about 70% correct about the future of air travel. My understanding is that aircraft are relatively efficient in energy terms when flown long distances full of passengers. When flown shorter distances or partially empty, they are much less efficient. If that is true, then it is likely that increasing energy prices will eventually put an end to commuter and regional air travel, but that transcontinental and intercontinental air travel will remain although they will be expensive.

      Caveat: I have not actually worked the numbers to verify the accuracy of what I've just said.


      According to the Wikipedia article on PETN, it is difficult to detect non-intrusively because it has a very low vapor pressure. i.e. not enough of it evaporates at normal temperatures for sniffing devices or animals to detect reliably.


      FWIW, my personal opinion is that US Airport security is security-theatre. I don't see that there is much chance that poorly trained, poorly paid, ineffectively managed security personnel stand much chance of preventing serious attempts to hijack or destroy aircraft. But there appears to be little chance of replacing the ineffective, intrusive and unpleasant horror show with a security system run by competent professionals. It probably wouldn't work either, but it'd be less annoying.

  • Turkey Forbids Israeli Military Overflights
    • I don't know a lot about IFF since it has been about 50 years since I worked on Air Defense, but I do know a little. It's really a very old technology (50-60 years in its modern form) and it doesn't change very quickly because changes need to be coordinated between allies and potential allies. Which means -- when you think about it -- means pretty much everybody except possibly North Korea. There are actually a number of modes to SIF. Some are secure and encrypted, others -- intended for use by civilian and other non-hostile aircraft to send ID and altitude data are not. (It's surprisingly hard to measure altitude with radar to the precision needed to keep aircraft clear of each other). The Wikipedia article link to isn't a bad place to learn a bit about it.

      What you probably know, but may not have really assimilated, is that radars can see a long way (Duh). Further they are often deliberately placed near borders and on/near the tops of mountains. As a result, Turkish radar can surely see and track most aircraft flying not only in their own airspace, but in Northern Syria, Cyprus, etc. The only way to avoid being seen/tracked is to turn off the SIF transponder and fly at very low altitude (i.e. "beneath the radar"). Because of the curvature of the earth, and topography, the detection altitude for a plane not using a transponder will be higher the further one gets from the radar.

  • BP Trashes Apollo Astronauts, Parrots Sarah Palin; Oil Godzilla heads for Coast
    • 400000bpd seems quite at variance with the EIA

      link to projects over 2mbpd offshore production from now til the end of their charts in 2035 mostly from deep water Gulf of Mexico. As usual, I can't locate the EIA publication I really want which makes it pretty clear that the US is going to be increasingly dependent on the deepwater central and western Gulf for domestic oil in the future, because the other offshore sources simply don't have that much petroleum. (in the EIA's opinion anyway)

      The argument that the amounts don't justify the returns may be viable for drilling off the Pacific and Atlantic Coast and the Florida peninsula. But I can't see it for these deep fields in the Gulf.

    • ***In fact, better fuel mileage standards, more subways and trains, and better urban planning would save us from needing all that petroleum BP was unleashing for us 5000 feet down. ***

      I very much wish you were correct, but you are not. I would strongly encourage you to forget wishful thinking and use a spreadsheet to do some modeling. The numbers you need are readily available -- Wikipedia and EIA. You will quickly discover that the depth and breadth of the US energy problems are truly staggering. Be prepared to spend a few minutes a day for months while you work this out.

      If you actually do that, you will quickly find that offshore drilling is far from the largest and most immediate problem. The biggest and most immediate problem IMO -- the cost of 10mbpd of imported petroleum.

      If you use reasonable numbers for expansion of rail, repopulation of central cities, improvement of fuel mileage, replacement of rolling and housing stock, etc, you will discover that solving the US energy problems is a 30-40 year job, and not just a matter of painlessly tweaking a few things.

      Is it hopeless? Of course, it's not hopeless. There's even some good news -- recent availability of a lot of natural gas which is relatively inexpensive, moderately difficult to export, and relatively non-polluting. But be prepared to accept some things you won't like in order to make the numbers work including many new nuclear power plants, cutting back on short-medium range air travel, burning more coal than you (or I) will like ... and offshore drilling.

      Oh yes, and don't forget population growth which -- at 0.7% is the same as China's and is the highest in the developed world. That means if you propose to cut US energy usage by 3% a year, you will actually only achieve 2.3%.


      BTW, as you will realize after a while, this very much has to do with your specialty. If the US straightens out its energy usage, I would expect that our enthusiasm for wandering about the Middle East doing stupid and counterproductive things will drop dramatically.

  • Suspect Arrested in Times Square Bomb Plot; Afghan anger at NATO Grows
    • Let's see here. Huffington Post says the war in Afghanistan cost 3.6B a month last year. The internet tells me that the population of that misbegotten wasteland is 29 million. Multiply by 12 ... divide by 29,000,000. ... Works out to just under $1500 a year per person in the country.

      Probably no more than 25% of the population is military age afghan males.

      So, we could pull out completely. Pay all the eligible males in the country $50 a month to join the Taliban and still save 38.65B dollars every year. Same outcome. Puts our armed forces out of harm's way. Much cheaper. Let's do it.

  • I want My Country back from Big Oil
    • You've got a reasonable position there professor except for one thing. The problem isn't really Big Oil or some other imaginary demon. It's the guy you see in the mirror in the morning when you shave. Him and his neighbors.

      Most of your ideas are good enough if sometimes a bit naive. But you need to understand that fixing the US energy mess is almost certainly a thirty year or more process. It's a huge problem that requires planning, dedication, thinking and maturity -- none of those things being characteristics of modern Americans. In the meantime, you are going to have to learn to tolerate petroleum even while it is phased out over decades, build a lot of nuclear power plants, and even burn a lot of coal. Sorry about that, but it's the way things are.

      Don't blame me for this mess. In 1980 I voted for Carter who wanted to address the problem. The majority of my countrymen voted for Reagan who wanted to address the problem with faith based policies.

      One final thought. For the most part, Big Oil doesn't care where you get your energy from. Whether your car and home run on gasoline, CNG, nuclear, solar, wind, hydro, they are going to make money. Being a lot smarter than Reaganites, they are in the energy business, not just the oil business. You don't have to like them, but they are the drug dealers and they don't actually care all that much which potion you prefer or even how much. You and I are the addicts.

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