January 20, 2020

The Earth from Apollo 1, Wikipedia, public domain

Dear Friends and Colleagues:

I apologize in advance for the length of this.  I understand that my comments may likely be rejected or ignored by some who’ve already succumbed to the false prophesies of doom and gloom and believe that we are incinerating our planet by enjoying the conveniences of modern life – such as fresh food and fruit all year-round, warmth in winter and cooling in summer, warm water to bathe in and to wash our things, lights at night, TV, cell phones, your computer, your car, your stove, your oven, your gas grill, your refrigerator, your washer, the school bus, the ability to leave for Europe in the late afternoon and report to work or pleasure there first thing the next morning.  Such modern “conveniences” are made possible through fossil fuels, and they also extend our lives and make it possible to feed a burgeoning world population.  So the first big question is,  “Are all these conveniences to be sacrificed before the altar of “green-ness?”

All the above conveniences come with NO (as in zero) horse manure all over our streets and its attendant odor assaulting us each time we (watch our) step outside.  And travel?  Do we really wish a return to sailing ships with months-long slogs in often rough seas?  Should we return to the horse and buggy for errands or to stage coaches for intercity travel?  And what about stables, hay, (and lots and lots of shovels and brooms)?

Fossil fuels are derived from things that once lived on this lovely green earth and whose carbon remains have been compressed (and condensed) over time and by earth-tectonics into stable, available, and efficient sources of energy.  These life-sustaining fuels are carbon-based because ALL LIFE FORMS ON EARTH ARE CARBON-BASED.  And, when such are consumed to provide heat, electricity, or motive power, their consumption emits varying amounts of carbon dioxide, which — as we all know from Jr. High – is, along with water vapor (H2O) — the product of COMPLETE COMBUSTION.

Some propose zero emissions of carbon dioxide.  But what about travel, from home to the store or school, or across town, or across the country, or to another continent?  Or what about how farms will operate without tractors or how food will get from farm to market?  Or how you will light your lights, charge your cells, watch TV, cook, cool, or heat your homes?  These things — modern life itself — depend on fossil fuels – for which we have no substitutes – YET!  (I’ll get to the “yet” later).

Wind and solar are ugly, not eco-friendly, and worse, are near worthless in terms of meeting the demands of modern life.  Period!  You can take that to the bank.  Putting wind turbines off-shore in the ocean as the current governor in my home state of Virginia proposes adds enormous maintenance costs due to non-preventable, salt-water corrosion – for which there is NO escape.  Plus they are ugly, and wind provides zero power when the air is still.  Solar doesn’t work at night or very well on cloudy days.  And foremost, modern life requires instant-on, always-ready electricity.  To prove this point, despite reliable electricity from public power companies, hospitals, control rooms, TV stations, supermarkets, air traffic control centers, FAA field activities, and so many more vital facilities are all backed up with stand-by generators that run on fossil fuels for obvious life-and-death reasons!  So how do we propose to get to “zero” emissions?  Batteries?  What kind?  How many?  Where?  How are they to be disposed of? Where will the materials needed to manufacture them come from?  There are many more questions because current technology has no good “battery solutions.”  You simply can’t store electrical power for use when the sun doesn’t shine or there is no wind.

But the most important question is, “Why would we want to change the way we live, upend our economy and curtail our freedoms?”

Image credit: enriquelopezgarre, Pixabay, License

Climate change is permanent and inevitable and every living thing on earth has learned over eons to adapt to it.  At times in earth’s history, the entire globe was covered in ice from the equator to both poles.  The white glare from the icy surface reflected the sun’s warming rays back into space and would have kept our frozen globe spinning in orbit  forever.  But the earth was saved by a tiny opening in the ice cover near what is today the Pacific Ocean near Panama.  From that tiny aperture in the ice, the sun’s warming rays gradually melted all of the ice – except for that in the extreme south and north polar regions.  At other times in the earth’s past, luscious green tropical plants extended up into what is today Alaska and enormous dinosaurs roamed the earth.

Fast-forward to more modern times, a scant 12,000 years ago, the spot in northern Virginia where I am typing this was locked under an ice sheet over a mile thick.  When it melted it left lines of rocks and boulders (the moraine) whose remnants I note as I walk in the woods near my home.  And the massive ice sheets gave us the Great Lakes and the Mississippi River and its tributaries.  In sum, this was a pretty significant warming period – a big event, really big!  And no humans were involved in bringing it about.

So, how did all of the wild swings of earth’s climate happen?  Why did we freeze up, and what caused us to rewarm?  Was life better when we were under the ice or when the earth was temperate and life could flourish?  All of this happened NATURALLY, without any input from mankind – oh, and carbon dioxide levels were all over the place.

Carbon dioxide is an important ingredient of life on earth.  Plants must have it or they will wither and die.  When even small additional amounts of this inert gas are added in greenhouses, it accelerates the growth of tomatoes, roses, petunias, cucumbers … you get it.  We exhale the stuff with each breath, as our oxygen-craving, carbon-based cells deliver oxygen to our brains, hearts, and other organs.  Conversely, plants “inhale” carbon dioxide through their pores and exhale oxygen.  Wow.  Just think, maybe Our Creator knew what He/She was doing.  D’ya think?   Once and for all, CARBON DIOXIDE IS NOT A POLLUTANT, and anyone who tells you otherwise is a liar with an agenda.

Fossil fuels are a great convenience and they have enabled modern life – but – they are finite.  However, “renewables” are a fake solution because, guess what?  They are derived from carbon-based life forms and when consumed, THEY EMIT CARBON DIOXIDE; and worse, since they are not in fossil form, you need a whole lot more of these so-called “renewables” to get the same amount of energy as much, much smaller amounts of coal or oil or natural gas would provide.  Plus, you need to plant and harvest “renewables” and then deliver them to market.  Should this be done with plows pulled by mules and horse carts, or by tractors and trucks or trains?  Hmmm.  “Renewables” are just another form of carbon dioxide production.  Not less of it, but in fact, more of it!

Image: Pettycon, Pixabay

What we MUST do is redouble our efforts in basic research to achieve the breakthrough in physics that will give us poor humans a new insight into Our Divine Creator’s Universe and allow us to tap the abundant energy that exists in …  exists in — IN EVERYTHING!  Everything is composed of atoms that contain various quantities of protons, neutrons and electrons – all in balance and all in motion.  And these atoms coalesce with others like themselves into molecules that appear to us as solid objects but whose separate atoms actually keep their distance from one another.  What force causes them to do this?  Can we put some of that force to use?  We have an understanding of magnetic force both at the micro and macro levels, but we have really only scratched the surface of matter and of forces and energy.  Can we unlock or borrow the power inside and between and among the atoms to use it temporarily and combine such forces of nature to produce energy to sustain modern life?  All we really need to start is a stable heat source that allows us to create steam to spin a turbine.

Basic research requires facilities, funding, and truly smart people, along with time and commitment.  But, its efforts will, ultimately, provide the answers that would allow us to rely less on fossil fuels and to conserve them for things that they do best for generations to come.  Research like this isn’t cheap.  To support it, we need robust economic times as well as sufficient congressional support from year to year.  Such would be impossible to do with an economy ravaged by eliminating fossil fuels to chase impossible and needless  “green” dreams — without adequate, reliable and affordable replacements for those fuels.

What we as a nation should do, while our brightest and best are busy researching the long-range answers to survival with less dependence on fossil fuels, is invest in comprehensive climate change abatement!  These are large-scale public-works projects that will protect vital facilities, enterprises, and homesteads from the ravages of Mother Nature’s fury.  How about a seawall to protect New York City’s vulnerable waterside areas that occasionally flood when a hurricane takes an errant path?  How about enlarging reservoirs in California to capture excess runoff in rainy years for use during the inevitable extended droughts?  How about clearing the brush in our national forests and permitting owners to do the same on private properties so as to preclude runaway wildfires during dry seasons?  Don’t worry; the kangaroo rat or whatever micro-species that now relies on such underbrush habitats will ADAPT, just as it did in other times and places.  Today’s species are the survival of the fittest because they adapted.  And, how about NOT rebuilding expensive homes on the oceanfront or on low-lying riversides that are prone to flooding during spring rains?  New Orleans and the Dutch Coastal cities stay dry behind seawalls and dykes.  Those were built as public-works projects.  Weather is going to change and we will be affected.  We can and should protect and prepare for some of its recurrences.

The hysteria over natural climate changes and recurrent, severe weather events is heightened by worldwide instant communications.  It used to be that a flash flood in Italy would be a local story in just one area of that country.  Today it is on our television screens here at home and shown over and over.  We see the cars racing down a swollen river and the earth eroding beneath buildings on the bank above and sometimes crashing into the raging water.  Wow!  Impressive!  But climate change?  No.  Yet such visual images —  footage – from anywhere in the world, since weather is always “happening” somewhere – embellishes the foolhardy mantra that weather is changing and will kill us all if we don’t abandon comfort, modernity, and sanity.  Visuals of these kinds of events are played over and over again, week in and week out – without any accompanying explanatory comment that the same thing happened, regularly, in years past.  The most recent flood (an annual occurrence) in Venice was promoted as most unusual – but they failed to inform the TV audience that the flood didn’t set a new record, and thus similar things happened in the past.  Don’t fall for the hype.  Fossil fuels are a boon to everyone on the planet.  They are relatively inexpensive and very effective and we should continue to use them until suitable replacements become available.

Finally, the earth is not going to burn up and mankind is not causing climate change and we can do little to prevent it.  However, we can and should act proactively to ameliorate its more severe effects.

Old Frank

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