September 30, 2008

Philosophical interlude

It's not religion versus science, or faith versus reason, or hope versus despair, or order versus chaos. We walk along a knife's edge between certainty and doubt. At a pathological extreme, it is between mania and depression. Faith is not about god or reason, but the necessary idea that we can -- and ought to -- maintain our balance as we continue forward. Whether it derives from religion or science or art or community doesn't matter; each of those is only as good as the persons who make it up. Each is equally subject to certainty and doubt. The difference between religion and science is in the former tending too often toward certainty and the latter too often toward doubt. Life "without god" isn't any harder than life "with god". In fact, they are not different.

September 14, 2008

Green means consuming less, not more.

'[An holistic perspective, says Dartmouth College sustainability director James Merkel,] would correct a common misconception that heating and generating with biomass -- namely, wood chips -- are carbon-neutral activities.

'"It’s anything but green," Merkel contends, because burning wood chips releases more carbon dioxide per BTU than does coal, and because logging often destroys natural habitats and contributes to today’s species extinction rate, which is occurring 1000 times faster than the natural rate. Biomass believers assert that the carbon dioxide emitted during combustion is offset by the planting of replacement trees. Merkel's response is that replanting creates a monoculture, and that it takes 40 years to reap any benefit, assuming the land is not bulldozed and developed. But if biomass, the darling of heavily forested northern New England, is not the answer, where can colleges turn for clean energy? ...

'Not so fast, Merkel cautions. "Thoreau said, 'Simplify three times,' you know?" he begins. "But that was 1853, so I think we need to say, 'Simplify 30 times' now, before you talk about what kind of energy you use."'

--"A second opinion on biomass," by Kirk Kardashian, Seven Days, Sept. 10-17, 2008

environment, environmentalism

September 13, 2008

Thoreau on hunting

Paul Theroux ends an excellent essay (click the title of this post) about Republican cruelty (cynically and perversely called "pro-life") with this quote from Henry David Thoreau:

"Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve life than destroy it."

environment, environmentalism, animal rights, ecoanarchism

September 11, 2008

Wind increases dependence on natural gas

Edgar Gärtner of Germany writes:

... Wind turbines generate electricity very irregularly, because the wind itself is inconsistent. Therefore wind turbines always need backup power from fossil fuels to keep the electricity grid in balance. Gas turbines are the best way to do this. They are able to respond quickly and push power production when wind generators stop suddenly. They can be turned on and off almost instantly [though at a cost of extra fuel consumption --Ed.], whereas traditional coal-fired plants need to be maintained in a very inefficient standby mode if they are to respond to large fluctuations in power demand.

A proliferation of windmills, then, can become a windfall for gas sellers. Just look at the cases of Spain and Germany, Europe’s leading producers of wind power.

By the end of 2007 Spain had 14,700 megawatts (MW) of installed wind capacity, according to Enagás, which manages the national gas network, producing 8.7% of the country’s total power supplies. Most of these wind generators are located in sparsely populated areas, while the power consumption is concentrated in big cities with their many air-conditioned buildings. The peak load of the Spanish power grid is thus in the hot summer months -- but this is precisely the time of year when there usually isn’t much wind.

For this reason, more and more gas turbines are being installed near consumers in the suburbs of Spain’s cities. Only last year, Spanish power providers added 6,400 MW of gas-turbine power capacity, taking the total installed capacity of gas turbines to 21,000 MW. Natural gas has become the main source of electricity generation in Spain, and according to Enagás, 99.8% of the gas used in Spain is imported. Most of this comes via pipeline from Algeria, but the import of liquid natural gas (LNG) by ships will increase.

In Germany, more than 20,000 wind turbines with a total capacity of 21,400 MW are now “embellishing” landscapes. Wind power’s share of total electricity generation has risen in line with that of natural gas since 1990. Germany’s gas consumption for power generation more than doubled between 1990 and 2007, and now represents 11.7% of the country’s total power generation. The country imported 83% of its natural gas supplies. ...

In the U.S. ... [t]his may explain why Shell, BP, Chevron and T. Boone Pickens are investing in wind power. It’s a clever strategy to add value to their gas assets by boosting demand.

These gas players can afford to lose money on wind power in the short term to reap huge profits in the long term. In fact, this was the strategy first implemented by Ken Lay of Enron in 1990s. Enron was the power and gas company that started the first large-scale manufacturing of wind power in the U.S. It also brought up the ideas for a cap-and-trade system, to increase the competitive edge of gas over coal.

Wind power is clearly not reducing the dependence on imported fuel, contrary to the frequent claims of its proponents. In fact the experience from Germany and Spain shows that it is increasing the dependence of imported natural gas.

wind power, wind energy

September 8, 2008

Top 3 Reasons for Opposing Industrial Wind Turbines

1. They do not do what they claim, i.e., reduce the use of thermal fuels or their emissions.

2. They have significant negative impacts -- on people, wildlife, landscape -- which are currently ignored, belittled, or denied.

3. They are very expensive, even for their claimed benefit, let alone their actual benefit (which is virtually nil). That money should be spent for real solutions, not dramatic but fruitless symbols.

wind power, wind energy, wind turbines, wind farms, environment, environmentalism, human rights, animal rights

September 5, 2008

Sarah Palin wrecks economy

Since Sarah Palin introduced herself to the nation and the world Wednesday night (by reading a speech written by Matthew Scully) (Thursday morning in Europe, mid-day in eastern Asia), followed by John McCain's insipid acceptance speech the next night, stock markets around the world have plummeted. That's probably not the convention bounce that Republicans were hoping for.

September 4, 2008

Trisomy Nation

It is said that  compared to John S. McCain, Barack Obama has no experience.

But with McCain's selection of Sarah Palin for vice president, he doesn't appear to think experience is that important anymore. And Obama has national and foreign policy experience that Palin completely lacks.

Palin has more executive experience than Obama.

She has more executive experience than McCain.

How dare you?! McCain has been tested like no one else ...

What exactly does "Country First" mean?

It means that anybody that raises the facts of the past 8 years is a narcissistic traitorous big-city elite. Anybody that questions the paranoid misinformed lies of this Republican campaign is a threat to American freedom and prosperity. It means that democracy is for pansies who can't take care of themselves. Our duty is to die at our leaders' command because freedom isn't free. As long as there's guns, gas engines, and jesus in it. This sign means you are excused of and honored for anything you've done or might do. It's for me and mine. It means submission.

[brain explodes]

September 3, 2008

"What about animal rights?"

As reported in January for the AP by Nedra Pickler, that question was posed to Barack Obama at a meeting in Henderson, Nevada.

He closed his reply with:

"I think how we treat our animals reflects how we treat each other. And it's very important that we have a president who is mindful of the cruelty that is perpetrated on animals."

human rights, animal rights