A lot of CO2

From Slashdot | Is Alcohol Killing Our Planet?

Fossil fuels for themselves (Score:4, Insightful)

by tjstork (137384) <tbandrow@mightyware.NETBSDcom minus bsd> on Wednesday April 01, @07:49PM (#27425287)

If climate change were all about a few extra breaths of CO2 and beer, we would hardly have a problem with CO2. It’s difficult to really believe that man could actually have an impact on the planet. It is. The atmosphere is enormous, but then, so too are all the industries that provide us energy.

The United States mines and burns, each year, about the same mass of coal as roughly 200 Great Pyramids. That which took nearly the entire ancient Egyptian economy, with all of their wealth, decades to produce, the USA does 200 times over, every year, and then burns it. You could almost say that the USA burns a great pyramid sized mountain of coal just shy of every two days the year. Nearly all the weight of that goes straight up into the atmosphere in the form of CO2. The carbon from the coal combines with oxygen, and there you go, you got 200 great pyramids floating around.

If you doubt this, go take a drive to your local power plant. Chances are, its a coal fired unit. You should see rail lines coming to it, and, what looks like one or more big black hills sitting next to it. Those hills are piles of coal and they will be burnt in about 30 days. The trains that ship the coal are easily a mile long. Sure, you could drive past it in a minute, but take the time actually to imagine that the whole thing probably weighs about 3000 tons.

By mass, that’s enough coal to double the atmospheric concentration of CO2 over a fairly significant. Do the math. Take 3000 tons of carbon, and knowing that earth’s atmospheric pressure is 15psi, of which a 300ppm is carbon dioxide, and see just how many square inches that trainload of carbon touches. It’s a big number, and thousands of these trains cross America every year, each carrying mile long trains of coal from places like Wyoming all across the country.

I did a back of the envelop calculation that shows that replacing all of this coal fired generation with windmills. If you use the windmills site being installed off of Delaware as a benchmark, you can calculate that it would take about 300,000 windmills to replace all of our coal.

It is for this reason that energy businesspeople scoff at the green lobby. For the most part, environmentalists really do not understand the scale of what they propose. America’s energy industry is just physically enormous. Conversely, you can’t seriously take an energy man’s claim that fossil burning can’t effect the planet. Unlike other industries, energy executives usually have degrees in engineering and they can do or should do the calculations needed to see that the scale of their activities is in fact planet altering.

Of course, I have not even touched on the natural gas and petroleum we consume. But, I can tell you this much. If you use 15 gallons of gas per week, you are putting about 300 pounds of carbon dioxide, straight into the air. How many square inches does it take to spread that out, just so that it doubles the amount of CO2 in the air?

I’m not a greenie by any stretch of the imagination, as I’ve written plenty about enviro’s being commies out to crush the USA… but it is pretty indisputable that our activities are planet consuming and that, as goofy and perhaps as evil as enviro’s are, they are right on one fundamental point. We do have to manage the atmosphere. We do have to manage our ecosystem. We do have to view the earth as a closed system and we do have to understand the effects of our actions upon its chemistry and consequently our environment. There are just too many people with too many powerful tools consuming too much energy to do otherwise.

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