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  • Writer's pictureTom Mast

Energy Sources and Attributes For Global Warming Mitigation

Updated: Nov 2, 2022

Tom Mast, founder Solve American Gridlock

I trust that you will agree that decisions which energy sources are picked to substitute for fossil fuels are extremely important – as in, we are betting our comfort, safety, and economy on them. Also, we can stipulate that the subject of mitigating greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions to prevent excessive global warming is fraught with complexity and misunderstandings; it is hard for good reasons. This causes problems like betting on the wrong horse or not betting on the right one. One cause of the confusion is that there are several important attributes for the commonly mentioned replacement energy sources, and the implications and the meanings of these attributes are not at all well understood by most folks. Therefore, the table below is a tool to help us wrap our minds around these matters and help us in discussions. There is some subjectivity in the ratings. #climatechange #fossilfuels


(Numbers in the columns refer to Notes below)


Legend: Desirability for Greenhouse Gas Fight (i.e. play a significant role in replacing fossil fuels)

A Very desirable

B Fairly desirable

C So-So desirable

D Poor desirability

F Not a fit


Notes

1. Renewable energy is energy that is collected from renewable resources that are naturally replenished on a human timescale. It includes sources such as sunlight, wind, rain, tides, waves, and geothermal heat. Wikipedia


2. Most existing electrical generation nuclear reactors are quite large. They are fission reactors, have been developed over many years and mankind knows how to make them. But, they have been built with many different designs, so they tend to be very slow to build and costly. Hence the development grade of “B” for these large reactors which are often one of a kind. Another class of reactors is called Small Modular Reactors (SMRs), and while much research and development has been done on them over many years, only now are the first ones beginning to come on line. So while they may have great potential for several reasons, their readiness is rated at “D”. This could be accelerated.


3. Fusion reactor technology is quite different from the fission technology used in all reactors operational to date. It may someday produce much energy for the world with almost no dangerous waste. But, the technical problems are extremely difficult and expensive, and despite serious research for many years and some prototypes well along, fusion technology is not anywhere near the stage that mankind can predict its success or schedule. Hence the readiness rating of “F”.


4. Wikipedia - Biofuel is a fuel that is produced over a short time span from biomass, rather than by the very slow natural processes involved in the formation of fossil fuels, such as oil. Since biomass can be used as a fuel directly (e.g. wood logs), some people use the words biomass and biofuel interchangeably. However, the word biofuel is usually reserved for liquid or gaseous fuels, used for transportation. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA) follows this naming practice.[1]

Biofuel can be produced from plants or from agricultural, domestic or industrial bio-waste.[2]The greenhouse gas mitigation potential of biofuel varies considerably, from emission levels comparable to fossil fuels in some scenarios to negative emissions in others. The two most common types of biofuel are bioethanol and biodiesel.


5. As a source of renewable energy for both power and heating, geothermal has the potential to meet 3-5% of global demand by 2050. Wikipedia. Its potential is limited to locations where adequate conditions are found. Higher temperature locations with the potential to generate electricity are less common that ones that can just provide heating.


6. Hydrogen is described as not being a source of energy, but as a carrier of energy. Using electrical energy from some source is a common way to separate hydrogen from being bound up with other elements. Hydrogen is also separated from fossil fuels. It is dangerous and difficult to move as a gas, and it doesn’t exist as a liquid above -423 degrees Fahrenheit. Since it can generate electrical energy without producing CO2, and since it exists in great abundance, albeit combined with other elements, it generates much interest. But, there are fundamental issues with using it. Ref: U.S. Dept. of Energy

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