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Sunday, September 25, 2005

thoughts on environmentalists/energy

The thing that pushed me into the following rant was reading two separate articles (one in National Geographic and the other I don't remember where) about energy, and the usage of wind turbines for that. Wind power is gaining momentum around the world as a legitimate source of energy. It's completely renewable and engineers keep coming up with new designs and sizes that are generating ever-larger amounts of energy more effeciently. However, wind projects keep meeting resistance by environmentalists who state the turbines are an eyesore on the landscape, destroying the "aethetic" of the natural world, and that ocean-ancored turbines will disrupt migratory bird patterns. Turbines are a sensible idea with the goal to eliminate dependence on fossil fuels yet apparently that just isn't quite good enough. It just makes me wonder when environmentalists are going to realize that this is not, and never will be a perfect world.

Don't get me wrong, I am all for the environment but I also understand that there are certain sacrifices with any decision. Radical environmentalists need to realize that sooner or later they are going to have to be a little flexible and meet the rest of the world somewhere in the middle. It is about weighing the good against the bad, especially when it comes to energy issues.

Take hydrogen fuel cells. Hydrogen has been a buzz word in recent years -- It's a readily available fuel, that's only bi-product is water. However what gets lost is the process of extracting hydrogen in the first place. The process of extracting hydrogen from water takes energy, more energy than the hyrdrogen puts out in the end. So, this means that an increase of fuel cells will actual increase the amount of energy needed -- energy that at this point comes from buring fossil fuels, thus nullifying the emissions cut by fuel cells in the first place. There is a method of extracting hydrogen that uses nuclear energy, and there has been a push by the recent administration to look into a greater use of nuclear. However, estimates show that under the current methods of nuclear energy there may only be enough usable uranium for 50 or so years. There are projects in the works attempting to change the nuclear process which would expand this by decades.

The next big thing has been bio-mass. From the big push for ethanol, to the numbers of hippies converting their deisel engines to run off of vegatable oil this movement has been gaining momentum. However, photosynthesis (which is what makes this all possible) is comparetively ineffecient, and it is said that in order to power the U.S. with biomass we would have to more than double the current amount of land used for agriculture. And I am pretty sure all of those environmentalist wouldn't go for plowing up native prairies and forest to make room for corn and soybean fields.

The bottom line is that in the US and around the world people need to meet somewhere in the middle and start making decisions that benifit/hinder both sides for the greater good. I am pleased to see the push for renewable energy like solar and wind, but it pains me to see that these pushes still are not good enough with the environmentalists.

(It's ironic that I write this rant sitting in front of my computer, a desk light buring bright, Itunes playing loudly, a fan churning nearby, and at least least two other lights on in the apartment for no reason. I am not exactly "living off the grid")

Good post.

And speaking of iTunes, I don't have any anymore. You know why? Because my goddamned iPod hard drive failed, and I dumped a glass of water on my laptop this weekend!

And it was all Best Buy's fault. I will explain in its own post.

Going back to what you said--isn't wind-powered energy a lot cheaper and efficient than it was when those began popping up in the 80's? And does it really come down to the fact that the hard-core environmentalists are making it hard for companies to produce these things? Or is there a reluctance from power companies to start building these again? Because a lot of companies bought into these things and got burned pretty bad--they broke down all the time, didn't produce as much as forecasted, etc. etc.

It is encouraging to see folks coming back around on this, though. It is dumb not to use it (especially in the wind tunnel that is Lincoln, Nebraska).
The only thing I will say is that the wind turbines do kind of destroy nature's aesthetic. On the drive from Palm Springs to LA there are thousands of turbines and the first time you see it, it is pretty awe inspiring. However, by about the 5th time you pass these things they make your blood curdle as they are so ugly and blot out a beautiful landscape. Don't get me wrong, they are a much better alternative to fossil fuels and nuclear fission, I just think its a shame that you need to have so many to make up the power differences.
Oh Christ, sorry we're ruining your drive from Palm Beach to LA. Cruising to LA in the Lexus sure does ruin a nice drive, doesn't it??????
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