Batteries from the Carboniferous

Nature’s (Not-Quite) Perfect Battery

by Indur M. Goklany

The major drawback of solar power and other renewables is that they cannot be relied on to deliver energy at their rated capacity for every hour of every day of the full year. Hence, the dollars, effort and human capital devoted to developing more efficient and low cost batteries.

But Nature has already solved this problem for us a very long time ago. It developed a system to capture solar energy and store it underground for future use in gas, liquid or solid form — to be used any time or anywhere we want, in rain or shine or in windy or calm conditions.

We call this energy capture system, “photosynthesis”, and this battery, “fossil fuels”.

Nature would never have thought that elements of humanity would look this gift horse in the mouth. That—even as they use it to turn night into day and make their labor more productive, allowing them to devote much of their waking hours to activities more fulfilling than the constant pursuit of food and sustenance—they would complain about returning the basic building block of its energy store, CO2, back to the atmosphere whence it came, particularly, since this building block sustains much of the living world, including humanity itself.

Some human beings have gone so far as to favor newer storage sources (AKA biomass) over fossil fuels. But biomass itself returns its carbon to the atmosphere.  So long as one uses carbon-based combustion, the chances of reducing CO2 emissions are nil, whether one uses new biomass or a fossil fuel. In fact, since newer carbon sources are also associated with higher moisture content in the fuel, burning them would increase CO2 per unit of usable energy.

But Nature’s battery is not perfect, it does release air pollutants.  However, CO2 isn’t a pollutant. And the air pollutants that it emits are today cleaned relatively easily without suffering a massive energy or economic penalty.

Should we not celebrate Nature’s (not quite perfect) battery, even though it isn’t perfection itself?

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93 Responses to Batteries from the Carboniferous

  1. It’s an interesting idea to term fossil fuels as batteries. However they are a type of battery that once used is disposed of in many billions in the environment with new ones frequently being fitted. By the way, biomass is carbon neutral, fossil fuels add fossil carbon to the environment which would normally be out of the loop. Co2 is also not a pollutant in itself, neither is sewage and excrement which can make for useful fertiliser, but I’m not sure I would like to see increasing amounts disposed of in my environment without being well processed.

  2. Gary Mount says:

    I don’t think wood is a newer storage source. I plan on fixing up my fireplace before winter sets in and burning much of the wood that I have collected from my yard over the past few years. I have about a cord of wood just from the branches and dead trees from crowding out.
    In B.C., and Canada, we have thousands of forest fires each year on average. I would rather see those trees harvested and use as a fuel source rather than have them go up in smoke In situ.
    I would also like to point out that due to human induced increases in CO2 levels, our forests grow back faster than when CO2 levels were lower, and hence we humans own a certain percentage of trees (at least by volume), unless of course Salby is right.

  3. Mike Bromley the Kurd says:

    I’ll run out an get the party favors.

  4. It ain’t “Nature”, IT’S BEEN THE ALIENS!!!!

  5. Ken Hall says:

    So to have the perfect battery tree, we should genetically engineer them to grow into windmills?

  6. Semantics. Coal and wood are both from rather similar origins. One has been in or on the ground longer than the other. It’s splitting hairs for dogma purposes to label one as sustainable and the other not. Trees are no longer sustainable once their repeated removal has taken required nutrients like P and K from the soil, leaving it barren. Then you have to fertilize. Guess what? A major feedstock for manufacture of nitrogenous fertilizers is natural gas. What goes around comes around.

  7. Paul says:

    We call this energy capture system, “photosynthesis”, and this battery, “fossil fuels”.

    This may apply to coal etc but oil ain’t no fossil fuel.
    Always trapped below impervious rock because it cannot raise to the surface.

    The ultimate renewable energy source. Comes from the bottom up

  8. John Marshall says:

    Ungrateful lot those humans.

  9. observa says:

    Interesting thoughts but we do have another battery that we know will run down one day. The sun. May as well enjoy Nature’s batteries while we can eh?

  10. David, UK says:

    Gareth Phillips says:
    September 2, 2011 at 12:18 am

    Co2 is also not a pollutant in itself, neither is sewage and excrement which can make for useful fertiliser, but I’m not sure I would like to see increasing amounts disposed of in my environment without being well processed.

    You’re comparing CO2 to sewage and excrement?

  11. Byz says:

    It is quite funny here in the UK as many people are now using wood burning stoves and the woodland floor is being stripped of wood as the free sources of wood dry up and people have to start paying for it and find it’s not so cheap.

    I on the other hand bought a multi fuel burning stove and I buy smokeless coal for just under £500 per ton (cheaper than my father was buying for in the 1980’s) and I don’t use it all, plus it doesn’t rot, in my garden I let Ash trees grow which is a very sustainable source of wood.

    I watch my neighbours spending months building up their wood store for the winter (if you work our how much time they spend in terms of money it would work out about £2000 per ton of wood) plus they burn petrol hauling it back to their houses.

    Last year I burnt £100 of coal and saved £200 off my gas bill tidy little profit :)

  12. David, UK says:

    Gareth Phillips says:
    September 2, 2011 at 12:18 am

    Co2 is also not a pollutant in itself, neither is sewage and excrement which can make for useful fertiliser, but I’m not sure I would like to see increasing amounts disposed of in my environment without being well processed.

    Anything is a pollutant in the wrong place. For example, in drinking water excrement is a pollutant but in fertilizer it is not. CO2 belongs in the atmosphere. It is plant food, and is not a pollutant there.
    And CO2 is processed, every single day. That’s what plants do.

  13. John H says:

    This only makes sense if the amount of new fossil fuels being formed is equal or greater than the amount being used. The CO2 being created may be only having a minor or nil effect on the climate but it is still a finite resource until new technologies come along that are as cost effective. Research into these new technologies is where the renewable subsidies should be being spent not on un economic technologies such as solar and wind power.

  14. Alexander says:

    I have read similar reasoning in a Russian paper years ago, even though that reasoning was more like a joke. Then again, in every joke there’s a part of a joke…
    It was like this:
    1. All ecosystems are always evolving to form a locked cycle of resources, minimizing the wasted energy and matter.
    2. However there was and is a considerable energy leak from ecosystems, as the energy stored in fossil fuels is removed from biological cycle and thus lost to the Earth ecosystem.
    3. This is why the Nature created humans. Their biological role is to burn all fossil fuels, thus returning the stored energy and resources into the biological cycle of Earth, thus enriching it. :-)

  15. Karl-Johan Lehtinen says:

    Sooner or later we have to take this “newer” coal into use since we are emptying our fossil deposits at a terrible pace where demand has outgrown supply already in the 2030s. According to IEA we would need 3-4 Saudi Arabias to meet the demand by that time.

  16. Esteban says:

    Ill ask once again What the hell has happened to the Berkeley Earth project Temp data. Its now 4 months overdue!!!! Its highly suspicious …lets take a punt: Temperatures have been found to be completely flat since 1880 when ALL data was included. CANNOT be published. Stop project in its tracks. Will not hear from this group again what a farce. They are a disgrace to Science.

  17. John Day says:

    @Indur
    > “Nature’s (Not-Quite) Perfect Battery”

    Of course, nothing in Nature is quite perfect. There are no perfectly round circles or perfectly straight lines. There is always some perturbation (macro or micro) which detracts from perfection. So it is with “natural batteries”.

    A brilliant essay, Indur, intended for the AGW/CAGW audience, who will be conflicted to discover that their worst enemy is also their best friend. (In the same sense that Mr. Obama might admire his own worst enemy (the Tea Party) as a very effective bunch of grass-roots Community Organizers)

    :-|

  18. Joe Lalonde says:

    Anthony,

    We do have other areas still NOT been looked into that has vast amounts of energy.

    This planets own motion and the forward momentum of the solar system.
    Science has been looking at perpetual motion machines and yet they forget this.
    Magnetics in a sense would be considered in that category. Where do they get the energy to keep the field running continuously?

  19. Beesaman says:

    Maybe one could mention that in this (hydro?)carbon battery, the CO2 is eventually recycled (via photosynthesis) in order to make new carbon batteries (wood) or in the latests algae developments, oil…..

  20. Beesaman says:

    Odd also how little we hear of the toxic metals used in solar panels, batteries in UPS systems based on solar and wind, energy saving lightbulbs, batteries in hybrids etc…
    Clean energy’s dirty little secrets seem to get buried underground.

  21. Ric Werme says:

    Sorry, the EE in me knows a battery is what powered various things as a kid. It’s a black box that provides a near constant DC voltage up to some inherent current limit for some amount of time. It wasn’t until physics class or maybe even college that I realized an ideal battery would maintain that voltage at any current for any amount of time.

    (Note this is very different from capacitors which hold a charge much like a tank of air does – the more electricity stored in a capacitor, the higher its voltage (air pressure) is. Just because “SuperCaps” can maintain computer memories for weeks of computers or weather sensors overnight doesn’t make them batteries.)

    Except for the recent discovery that trees can be used as weak batteries, plants, especially in the form of peat or coal, are merely solar energy storage systems best used to provide heat energy which can then be transformed into other forms.

    See http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/09/09/oh-the-tree-huggers-wont-like-this-exploiting-trees-for-electricity/
    for the only other WUWT post on using trees as batteries.

  22. Lena says:

    Good point there. I agree!

  23. rbateman says:

    The energy from photosynthesis was created in the Sun. It took a million years to reach the surface of the Sun, 8-1/2 minutes to get here, a growing cycle to store, millions of years more to concentrate into a high-yield energy source, and a hop, skip and a jump to extract, refine & use.
    Coal is obviously from photosynthesis. Oil is in somewhat of a controversy. But all that energy came from the Sun.
    Wind is from differential heating of the Planet, so it too comes from the Sun.
    Geothermal is stored heat from the condensaton of the Solar System nebula and tidal friction, so it’s energy was imparted from the Galaxy originally, but is now Gravitational.
    Nuclear (fission) is from recycled stars, particularly SuperNovae, as the heavy elements beyond Iron are not normal products of fusion.
    We currently can’t do a thing with fusion.
    Solar is a high investment and high maintenance/low yield affair requiring advantages siting.
    Wind is likewise an iffy venture. Geothermal is site limited and scant. Biomass is a locale/species dependent young field. The plant life that stored the fossil fuels is mostly extinct Biomass also competes with agriculture, and that is it’s biggest downfall.
    Fission is messy and deadly.
    Fusion is an elusive butterfly not yet captured, save the known source 93 million miles distant.
    That puts fossil fuels at the top of the energy use chain, for the present and possibly near long-term.
    Compared to the energy source nail-biting thriller, CO2 is an Elmer Fudd problem.

  24. Richard says:

    The viewers might consider the life of mold on the skin of an orange. From small beginnings, the mold prospers at a rapid rate until if totally covers the skin of the orange. Then as the orange is consumed the mold dies leaving behind mold spores seeking another orange. Earth is the human orange. A new orange is not in the near term future. Paleo types say there have been a few “bottlenecks” over the millenia when the human population drastically shrunk. The most recent bottleneck was the plague of the Dark Ages of Europe and parts of Asia. The question is are enough humans intelligent enough to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past and continue to prosper?

  25. Manuel says:

    @Gareth
    >>>By the way, biomass is carbon neutral, fossil fuels add fossil carbon to the environment which would normally be out of the loop.

    I am not so sure about that. There are alternative uses of some biomass fuels, like making food, that would not result in CO2 being released to the atmosphere, so I guess that they are not, in a true sense, carbon neutral.

    That is just the kind of green arithmetic that results in, for example, talking about “green jobs” that, in fact, are really a destruction of wealth, and jobs.

  26. Kasuha says:

    Um… sorry but no. Batteries are something to which somebody stores energy intentionally for later use. There’s no intent on Nature’s side.
    It’s not even certain “fossil fuels” are entirely fossil, there’s quite a lot of carbon in the primary material the Earth was made of and it can be “processed” to oil by internal heat. So there’s a chance the energy available in oil was not stored there by photosynthesis.

  27. Richard111 says:

    Can anyone explain to this dumb layman just how oil is formed from fossils?
    Which branch, animal or vegetable? What volume of ‘fossil’ biota was needed
    to produce not only today’s known reserves but also the huge quantities already
    used and how come the ‘fossils’ got so deep into the rock structures?
    (seven miles down was last report I read)

  28. Gareth Phillips,

    Whether you pay your electricity bill out of your savings account (fossil fuels) or your checking account (newer biomass), your total wealth (checking + savings) is the same (assuming the bill is paid out with equal efficiency, i.e., all fees are equal, whichever account you use). From the electrical company’s point of view, its revenues are also the same. So, it makes no difference which account you use.

    Although paying it from your checking account makes your savings account larger, you are no better or worse off, on net. What will make a difference is being able to decrease your electricity bill or increasing the amount you bring in to your checking account. But if you want to pay your bill, it makes no difference which account you use.

    That using biomass is any more sustainable than using coal, for instance, is based on compartmentalization (between checking and savings accounts). What is more “sustainable” (or “sustainable” for a longer time) — note the quotes, I use the word advisedly, but that’s another story — is either to reduce the use of energy or to generate biomass more rapidly (without displacing something else that would generate equal or more biomass).

    I’ll have to sign off for the next couple of days, so won’t be able to respond rapidly. My apologies to all, but thanks for reading.

  29. Sam Hall says:

    The real problem with solar power, and wind, isn’t that it is not available 24/7 but that you can’t depend on it at any time. If solar produced full output in the daytime and zero at night, you could deal with it. Knowing that solar power can fail at anytime means that you must have backup generation running. This not only imposes a operation cost, but a capital cost.
    If solar power was priced by market forces and not government edicts, it would only be worth the cost of the fuel saved. Which means it would never be built.

  30. higley7 says:

    Then we have the hydrocarbons apparently emanating from the Earth’s core as natural gas and petroleum. It’s clear that natural gas from 12,000 feet down cannot be from fossil material that was once something like a swamp. Some may derive from subduction zones at tectonic plate edges, but the widespread occurrence of gas almost everywhere we drill deep enough suggests, as do isotopic analyses, that it comes from even deeper down.

    There would be more natural gas than we find, if the lithosphere really was impermeable, but there has probably been leakage to the surface over the eons to some extent in many places, which explains the methane found in many groundwater sources.

    So, this battery stores nuclear energy as hydrocarbons for later use—if we do not use it, it will eventually leak to the surface and be lost to natural processes from which we gain no advantage. It may be considered selfish to want to help ourselves. It certainly appears that the Greens think we should push away all really useful and available resources that make our lives pleasant.

    Let’s go for the concept that a happy and healthy human race will produce a happy and healthy world!

  31. Spector says:

    The primary problem I have with this article is that it takes as a given that adding carbon dioxide to the atmosphere at current levels is a very bad thing and should be prevented. Usually this is based on a perception that the greenhouse effect temperature rise is directly proportional to the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, when in fact, absorption-band self-masking, makes this rise proportional to the logarithm of the CO2 content. Also, water vapor appears to be the primary greenhouse gas controlling temperatures in the lower atmosphere.

    BTW, I think the term ‘renewable’ is somewhat misleading, as most resources will be replaced, if given enough time—perhaps millions of years of geologic activity. I prefer to use the term ‘renewing’ to indicate those resources that are continuously being regenerated at their current rate of use.

  32. mkelly says:

    I have said here and other blogs that coal should be considered the original bio-fuel. Dead corn-ethonal. Dead grass/leaves/trees -coal. What is the real difference?

    And research should be done to find a inexpensive way to get methane-hydrates from the ocean to pipe lines to consumers not solar or wind. We have thousands of years of energy available with hydrates.

  33. jefferyp2100 says:

    Fossil fuels: 100% natural!

  34. JJwright says:

    When there is no wind for wind turbines …
    When there are no tides for tidal generation …
    When there it is night..
    then we should use the batteries from the carboniferous.

    Do you run your battery torch during the day when there is sunlight to see with? No – you of course turn it off and use the renewable source.

    Power stations running on fossil fuels CAN be turned down or even off if their energy is not required.
    Even if the station is running as spinning reserve (a few seconds to full power) then its power consumption can be greatly reduced. (remember a full 1GW is required to run as spinning reserve to back up a nuclear plant (in case of scram) but only 7MW is required to back up a windtubine crash!)

  35. Pete says:

    Obvious question: what do you do when this battery runs flat? For oil that seems to be approaching soon.

  36. Alan D McIntire says:

    CO2 circulates between the atmosphere, the biosphere, the oceans. There is some leakage into the earth’s crust, but this is replaced by the release of CO2, among other gases, from volcanoes. The earth/s interior is warmed by radioactivity, mainly U 238 U 238 has a half life of about 4.5 billion years, comparable to the age of our planet, so it isn’t producing as much heat now, so presumably volcanic activity has ALSO been dropping off.

    As a result of the gradual cooling and slowing down of the CO2 replacement pump, less CO2 leaking out of the atmosphere, biosphere, and. oceans is getting replaced. As a result, the earth’s biosphere is now going on a starvation diet. That may be the reason grasses have evolved.

    http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1692178/pdf/9507562.pdf

    “T. E. Cerling1, J. R. Ehleringer2 and J. M. Harris3
    1Department of Geology and Geophysics, and 2Department of Biology, University of Utah, Salt Lake City, UT 84112, USA
    3The George C. Page Museum, 5801Wilshire Blvd, Los Angeles, CA 90036, USA
    The decline of atmospheric CO2 over the last 65 million years (Ma) resulted in the `CO2-starvation’ of
    terrestrial ecosystems and led to the widespread distribution of C4 plants, which are less sensitive to CO2
    levels than are C3 plants. Global expansion of C4 biomass is recorded in the diets of mammals from Asia,
    Africa, North America, and South America during the interval from about 8 to 5Ma.”

    So our putting part of the leakage back into the atmosphere is just taking us off a starvation diet-

    – A. McIntire

  37. JPS says:

    Gareth-

    Your comment regarding sewage and poop is a non-sequitor. These are things that clearly have harmful effects no matter their classification. If you wanted to be more accurate you could say something like- “Co2 is also not a pollutant in itself, neither is water vapor which can make for useful water, but I’m not sure I would like to see increasing amounts disposed of in my environment without being well processed.”

    If THAT statement was believeable you might be on to something.

  38. Bruce Hall says:

    Another way to address energy and waste needs is through “energy recycling;”

    http://www.istockanalyst.com/article/viewiStockNews/articleid/3766591

    “U.S. Rep. Jim Oberstar, D-Minn., announced the federal grant from the Federal Economic Development Administration.

    If completed, plans call for the plant to process about 100 tons of municipal garbage a day to generate 40,000 BTUs per hour of synthetic gas in addition to steam that could be used for industrial use or used to generate electricity.

    Under the proposal, an electric-powered plasma torch would blast the garbage at 18,000 degrees Fahrenheit — hotter than the surface of the sun — in an oxygen-starved reactor chamber. The process turns organic matter into synthetic gas that can be made into steam or electricity. Inorganic matter in the waste stream becomes a glass-like material — about one ton for every 10 tons of waste. Instead of burying that byproduct like incinerator ash, it can be ground up and made into ceiling tiles or flooring tiles, or as aggregate or asphalt filler for roads or trails.

    Supporters, including Oberstar, said the process could revolutionize waste disposal in the region while creating a low-cost, clean and local source of energy.”

  39. nc says:

    “Always trapped below impervious rock because it cannot raise to the surface.” what about natures big oil spill in Alberta which man is cleaning up?

  40. Pamela Gray says:

    Forest fire smoke has choked our communities lately, even though far away from the actual fires. The wind carried it aloft and dumped it on us. Imagine what it was like when fire suppression efforts were nonexistent! The amount of particulates in the air, along with carbon soot, must have been tremendous year in and out. But they now put the fires out so our air cleared after just two days. I question the contention that the pollution we spew from the burning of carbon based fuel is worse now than it used to be in past centuries. Highly question it.

    And evidence abounds. All you have to do is look at soil layers in fire-prone areas and downwind of fire prone areas to know that CO2 levels were likely much higher in the past on a local basis than far away ice cores have indicated.

  41. Paul Hull says:

    While we can acknowledge that “nature’s battery” is providing power for all of human kind’s benefit, we must not ignore the fact nature’s other battery is the very food that we, and every other living creature on earth, eat. Carnivore’s eat herbivores and/or omnivores. Herbivores eat…ta da!… sunlight and carbon in form of plants! Plants store carbon, sunshine and trace minerals. They, too, are batteries. The batteries that sustain all of us through the cold of winter when the sun is doing its job in the other hemisphere. Grass is strawberries is corn is fir trees is stored sunlight and carbon. Whether used for fuel in living beings or burning as a log in fire place, we all benefit from the batteries with which we have been blessed since Ug struck sparks and stated the fire in front of his cave so many years ago.

  42. James Evans says:

    “You’re comparing CO2 to sewage and excrement?”

    I’d recommend some pretty serious mouth wash, in that case.

  43. Nuke Nemesis says:

    Karl-Johan Lehtinen says:
    September 2, 2011 at 2:53 am
    Sooner or later we have to take this “newer” coal into use since we are emptying our fossil deposits at a terrible pace where demand has outgrown supply already in the 2030s. According to IEA we would need 3-4 Saudi Arabias to meet the demand by that time.

    The USA has a few centuries worth of coal. If we start exporting large amounts for world-wide needs, then the supply won’t last as long, of course. But like oil, the problem is not in lack of deposits but in having a large number of deposits declared off-limits by the state.

  44. 1DandyTroll says:

    I don’t understand the nature to complicate the nature of nature’s energy storage. For pete sake ever heard of oil, gas, coal, uranium, and diamonds?

    The diamonds are notably the greatest storage vessel for energy in the known universe, it is in fact an observable fact, just give a six carat diamond to a woman and the energy released is beyond the wildest imagination. And you can’t do that with the other stored energy sources, I mean imagine the effect of dipping a woman in oil, submitting her to gas, all the while being irradiated by uranium, although very powerful, it would still just be a very short burst of energy release. That’s also an observable fact…at least one time. :p

  45. Doug says:

    While the Carboniferous was a prominent period in production of coal, it is fairly minor with regards to oil and gas. Even our coal deposits are more from the Cretaceous. ( Geologists have to keep up with the grammar and spelling police!)

  46. JPS says:
    September 2, 2011 at 6:14 am
    Gareth-

    Your comment regarding sewage and poop is a non-sequitor. These are things that clearly have harmful effects no matter their classification. If you wanted to be more accurate you could say something like- “Co2 is also not a pollutant in itself, neither is water vapor which can make for useful water, but I’m not sure I would like to see increasing amounts disposed of in my environment without being well processed.”

    If THAT statement was believeable you might be on to something.

    Sounds good to me!

  47. Kaboom says:

    Coal, oil, gas .. not only natural but truly organic!

  48. James Sexton says:

    Karl-Johan Lehtinen says:
    September 2, 2011 at 2:53 am

    Sooner or later we have to take this “newer” coal into use since we are emptying our fossil deposits at a terrible pace where demand has outgrown supply already in the 2030s. According to IEA we would need 3-4 Saudi Arabias to meet the demand by that time.
    ===================================================================
    That, of course, assumes technology remains the same between now and then. It won’t. But, we do have 3-4 Saudi Arabias already. They just won’t let us go get it. The U.S. alone has enough resources to carry us into the next century. Canada has plenty, too! I don’t know about the rest of the world, but the western hemisphere is fine……. maybe if everyone else is nice to us……. we may share. :-)

  49. G. Karst says:

    Manuel says:
    September 2, 2011 at 4:48 am

    I am not so sure about that. There are alternative uses of some biomass fuels, like making food, that would not result in CO2 being released to the atmosphere, so I guess that they are not, in a true sense, carbon neutral.

    I have always maintained, that the only legitimate use of food for fuel, is the ability of farmers to produce their own fuel, in situ. As it stands, our food supply is entirely dependent on the world’s ability to provide fuel delivery to farmers. If any geo-political event disrupts this fuel supply, we are all in big trouble. Knowing farmers can produce enough bio fuel to continue to plant and harvest food crops, during a crisis, is a big comfort to me, as it should be to everyone else.

    People must keep in mind that food security must always remain our highest priority. Nobody will argue AGW, when we are starving and listening to our children crying themselves to sleep. Our ability to argue AGW comes entirely from the luxury obtained from successful food crops. GK

  50. Eric Anderson says:

    JJWright @6:03 a.m. “remember a full 1GW is required to run as spinning reserve to back up a nuclear plant (in case of scram) but only 7MW is required to back up a windtubine crash!”

    Are you suggesting that the average wind turbine produces the same amount of electricity as the average nuclear plant?

  51. ferd berple says:

    “I on the other hand bought a multi fuel burning stove and I buy smokeless coal for just under £500 per ton (cheaper than my father was buying for in the 1980′s) ”

    £500 per ton for coal works out to £250 per barrel of oil on an energy equivalence basis.

    Source: BP Statistical Review of World Energy – June 2010
    World coal consumption was essentially flat in 2009, the weakest year since 1999. For the first time since 2002 coal was not the fastest-growing fuel in the world. The OECD and Former Soviet Union experienced the steepest declines on record, while growth elsewhere was near average, largely due to above-average growth in China, which accounted for 46.9% of global coal consumption.
    http://coal.infomine.com/commodities/

  52. DirkH says:

    Richard says:
    September 2, 2011 at 4:41 am
    “The viewers might consider the life of mold on the skin of an orange. From small beginnings, the mold prospers at a rapid rate until if totally covers the skin of the orange. Then as the orange is consumed the mold dies leaving behind mold spores seeking another orange. Earth is the human orange.”

    I love Malthusian comparisons. It shows so neatly the high opinion Malthusians have of mankind.

  53. Dr. Science says:

    So, over an extended time period burning fossil fuels in actually carbon-neutral. Brilliant!

  54. Malcolm Ross says:

    Are the high CO2 levels of past geologic ages responsible for our modern civilization?
    At the 6th International Conference on Climate Change Dr. Scott Denning gave a lecture on climate sensitivity. He postulated: unless rigorous action takes place to reduce CO2 emissions, a doubling of the atmospheric CO2 level from the 400 ppm to 800 ppm will occur. If this happens he predicted dire consequences for human life.
    From numerous investigations into pleolevels of atmospheric CO2 (for example, see Robert A. Berner, Am. J. Science, v. 301, pp. 182-204) it was found that during Phanerozoic age (from 540 million years ago to the present) CO2 levels were as high 6000 ppm. During the Eocene period (34 to 56 million years ago) sodium carbonate mineral stability relations show that CO2 levels were greater than 1125 ppm.
    It was during these periods of high CO2 levels that animal and plant life flourished and huge deposits of the decaying vegetation were formed and then buried under later sediments. These deeply buried sediments of organic material were subjected very high pressures and temperatures which converted the organic material to the present day deposits of coal, oil and gas. Examples of United States and Canadian coal deposits that formed in these past geologic ages are: (1) the Devonian coal beds in Pennsylvania, Maryland, and West Virginia and in the Northwest Territories of Canada, and (2) the Eocene coal deposits of Colorado, Wyoming and Montana.
    There is an irony here – the concern over the present CO2 levels while ignoring the CO2 levels in past geologic ages. If CO2 levels during these past ages were the same as the present levels there would be few coal, gas and petroleum deposits. An advanced civilization, such as we now have, depends on the access to energy. Without ample coal deposits here would have been no industrial revolution in England, without ample petroleum deposits there would be no automobile industry, without ample natural gas fields there would be no gas-fired electric power plants, gas home heating, gas stoves and dryers. Without these sources of energy the human race would advance no further than that of Stone Age man. Perhaps that is where the Greens wish the human race to be, living in caves and eating roots.

  55. OK S. says:

    Good points. Coal, oil, & natural gas being solar energy storage batteries. And mosty recycleable, too.

    NOTE to mods: Upstream post is spam–Lena says: September 2, 2011 at 4:30 am, Good point there. I agree! Or appears to be.

  56. Johnny Terawatt says:

    It’s called paleosolar energy. No silicon, tellurium or cadmium required.

  57. Nuke Nemesis says:

    1DandyTroll says:
    September 2, 2011 at 6:49 am
    I don’t understand the nature to complicate the nature of nature’s energy storage. For pete sake ever heard of oil, gas, coal, uranium, and diamonds?

    The diamonds are notably the greatest storage vessel for energy in the known universe, it is in fact an observable fact, just give a six carat diamond to a woman and the energy released is beyond the wildest imagination. And you can’t do that with the other stored energy sources, I mean imagine the effect of dipping a woman in oil, submitting her to gas, all the while being irradiated by uranium, although very powerful, it would still just be a very short burst of energy release. That’s also an observable fact…at least one time. :p

    Diamonds. That’ll shut her up (for awhile).

    H/T Comedian Ron White

  58. Max Hugoson says:

    Dr. Science:

    Also, running nuclear reactors CLEANS the Earth of radiactive elements! Why, U and daughter products (Polonium, Radon, Radium) are long lived. Putting the U in a reactor, actually “speeds up” the decay. The activity of HIGH LEVEL WASTE is below that of the ORE FROM WHICH IT CAME after 300 years of isolation. (Drop in the bucket, geological time.)

    Max

  59. SteveE says:

    higley7 says:
    September 2, 2011 at 5:31 am
    Then we have the hydrocarbons apparently emanating from the Earth’s core as natural gas and petroleum. It’s clear that natural gas from 12,000 feet down cannot be from fossil material that was once something like a swamp.

    ————–

    Of course you can, oil and gas generation is dependant on temperature not depth, so a low geothermal gradient could see gas generated from 1000’s meters below the surface. Basic petroleum geology will teach you that. Abiotic petroleum is not produced in any significant quantities here in earth.

  60. ferd berple says:

    “Then as the orange is consumed the mold dies leaving behind mold spores seeking another orange. Earth is the human orange”

    Why limit the comparison to humans? A single pair of fruit flies would quickly cover the earth in their offspring if all were to survive. The same is true of almost any life form.

    Contrary to popular belief, humans are not the dominant life form on earth. We just like to believe we are. Worms and jellyfish rule the earth and they are not the least concerned about CO2 or global warming.

    Carbon trading/taxes do not reduce CO2 emissions, it simply moves it from one spot on the earth to another, with money changing hands as a result. Here in BC, Pacific Carbon Trading is making millions, without adding any net benefit to the economy.

    This money is being drained out of school system budgets, for example, to flow to the owners of PCT. The scheme was never intended to reduce CO2. It was created by politicians to drain taxpayer money into the hands of friends of the government, using the environmental movement as as smoke screen. Follow the money.

  61. Hmmm says:

    It’s not the demon the left make it out to be, but energy security and middle east concerns are valid enough reasons to look for alternatives to fossil fuels. Of course having the gov’t forcing premature alternatives on us before they are economically and technically viable is not the way to go.

  62. a dood says:

    G. Karst says:
    September 2, 2011 at 7:41 am

    Great post G!

  63. Crispin in Waterloo says:

    Geoff Sherrington says:

    Trees are no longer sustainable once their repeated removal has taken required nutrients like P and K from the soil, leaving it barren. Then you have to fertilize.

    ++++++++++

    There are many tons of P and K in the soil in an insoluble form. Very interesting and well-proven work done at ARTI in Pune, India by Dr AD Karve shows that this insoluble P+K can be liberated by bacteria. Fertilising the bacteria causes them to proliferate and make the P+K available to plants. This fertilisation is done by adding sugar and water to the soil now and then. There are thousands of Indian farmers using this technique instead of the West’s more energy intensive (not to mention money-intensive) fertilisers.

    A separate issue with trees is ground acidification – the claim being that fast rotation of monocultured trees will accumulate acids (particularly pines). A study of this possible effect was done in the world’s most intensively cropped forests (the Usuthu Forest) in Swaziland by Bayliss about 1990. He found no increase in acidity at all. Incidentally the Usuthu and other highveld forests in Swaziland were planted from scratch so the baseline conditins are well known from nearby hills.

    The barren/depleted soil from tree cropping argument is false.

  64. James Sexton says:

    JJwright says:
    September 2, 2011 at 6:03 am

    When there is no wind for wind turbines …
    When there are no tides for tidal generation …
    When there it is night..
    then we should use the batteries from the carboniferous.

    Do you run your battery torch during the day when there is sunlight to see with? No – you of course turn it off and use the renewable source.

    Power stations running on fossil fuels CAN be turned down or even off if their energy is not required.
    Even if the station is running as spinning reserve (a few seconds to full power) then its power consumption can be greatly reduced. (remember a full 1GW is required to run as spinning reserve to back up a nuclear plant (in case of scram) but only 7MW is required to back up a windtubine crash!)
    ========================================================================
    JJ, I don’t mean to sound mean, but, I think I should clear some things up for you.
    First of all, the backup generation necessary is entirely dependent upon the output, not the source. Its silly to think of it in the manner you expressed.

    Secondly, you don’t understand the nature of the sources of energy used for electric generation. Natural gas can be brought up to capacity in a very short time. Nuclear and coal takes days. And while the output can be adjusted, it isn’t a quick process and is limited in the amount to be varied.

    Nuclear is an animal of its own, and its fuel, generation, and output isn’t easily compared to other sources of energy. It takes days to bring one on line. And, once it is on line, its best to just let it do its thing.

    Coal and gas……. the easiest analogy is to consider cooking and barbeques. Yes, with a gas stove, one can easily turn up and down it’s output, but coal should be considered much like charcoal, you burn it and it produces heat, but you can’t just turn it off and increases or decreasing the output is much more difficult than turning a knob. The heat/energy has to go somewhere.

    In the ideal world, nuclear and coal should be used for the base load. (That is the amount of energy required at the lowest level of the day.) And their output should remain relatively constant. Gas would then be used as a supplement for peak demand. That’s the problem with your soft renewables. You never know when or how much energy will be available. You can’t use it for a base load and it isn’t reliable enough for peak demand, because you don’t know if or how much it will be available.

    Lastly, in order to utilize the soft renewables, obviously we must have backup generation available. This is always in the form of natural gas generation because of what was stated above. Do you understand how much resources are spent for this duplicity? The countless miles of transmission line required? The maintenance? The substations? I really don’t believe we’ll get to the point where soft renewables contribute more energy and fuel than what is required to create and maintain the facilities. Maybe a few generations from now, but no time soon. Then understand all of the capital spent to realize a net negative investment.

    Soft renewables are costing this nation enormously in terms of capital, energy, fuel, and resources. If anyone were to truly desire to turn this nation’s (the U.S., but it would apply in other nations, as well.) economy around, simply walk away from soft renewables, embrace the sources of energy we have, and produce more. If the world were to do this, the world’s economy and general health and welfare of the population would improve in a few fortnights.

    If my ability to communicate the certain thoughts listed above was too poor, please, just ask for clarification.

    Best wishes,

    James

  65. Jeff B. says:

    Eco-green types are fundamentally mankind haters. They want to impose irrational energy policy on humans because they hate the idea of humans being exceptional and using our minds to explore and create from the earth. Careful how you vote.

  66. Joe Crawford says:

    Byz says (September 2, 2011 at 1:58 am)

    I on the other hand bought a multi fuel burning stove and I buy smokeless coal for just under £500 per ton (cheaper than my father was buying for in the 1980′s) and I don’t use it all, plus it doesn’t rot, in my garden I let Ash trees grow which is a very sustainable source of wood.

    I watch my neighbours spending months building up their wood store for the winter (if you work our how much time they spend in terms of money it would work out about £2000 per ton of wood) plus they burn petrol hauling it back to their houses.

    Last year I burnt £100 of coal and saved £200 off my gas bill tidy little profit :)

    Wow… the cost of energy is sure different here in West Virginia. Coal sells wholesale at the mine for around $60 US per ton. Firewood (Oak hardwood) sells delivered for $125 per cord ( approx 1 ton). We heated our house last winter with 7 cords of wood we cut and split ourselves. We only use propane for backup (about 100 gallons last winter).

  67. J says:

    Pyrolyzation (charcoal) offers an interesting alternative to burning: take some of the energy with the gas and keep the carbon in char form to add as a soil enhancer. The terra preta soils of the amazon seem to offer centuries of high fertility for the one-time investment of char. Several land grant schools and other institutions are experimenting with this exciting technology from the past.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biochar

  68. JDN says:

    Who told you that fossil fuels were from fossils? Wasn’t it the same sort of people who support the hippie green movement? I keep telling people to read Thomas Gold’s “Deep Hot Biosphere” book to counter this nonsense, but, apparently that would be too easy.

    READ The Deep Hot Biosphere: The Myth of Fossil Fuels

  69. SSam says:

    Richard111 says:
    September 2, 2011 at 4:53 am

    “Can anyone explain to this dumb layman just how oil is formed from fossils?
    Which branch, animal or vegetable? What volume of ‘fossil’ biota was needed
    to produce not only today’s known reserves but also the huge quantities already
    used and how come the ‘fossils’ got so deep into the rock structures?
    (seven miles down was last report I read)”

    A few sources… swampland, forests and coastal margins. As organic debris layers on the surface, eventually is compacts and de-waters. This makes a peat like material. Layer it deeper in the sediment and have fold belts form from geologic stresses, compressing the material and heating it (due to the depth that winds up at from the over laying strata) and it starts to form coal.

    In fact, here is a rough layout of how mature the material is -> peat – lignite – bitumen – anthracite.

    Another source material is commonly seen in ROV footage as the deep ocean is explored. “Marine Snow.” This accumulates on continental shelves and undergoes a similar process. To give you an idea of just how thick the sediment can be…. in the Gulf of Mexico, the sediment layer can be upwards of 12 to 13 km thick. And that is just what has accumulated since the GOM opened up and became the GOM. Before that the Yucatan peninsula was next to Texas, and the chunk-o-land that became South Florida was next to New Orleans.

    If you like to read, this may be enlightening.

    http://berg-hughes.tamu.edu/papers/conventional_petroleum/ne_gulf.pdf

  70. Dave Worley says:

    “Of course you can, oil and gas generation is dependant on temperature not depth, so a low geothermal gradient could see gas generated from 1000′s meters below the surface. Basic petroleum geology will teach you that. Abiotic petroleum is not produced in any significant quantities here in earth.”

    There is a parallel here with regard to the search for an economical fusion reaction.

    The fusion in the sun occurs due to the large mass of the sun. That huge mass and the gravity it generates is what causes the fusion reaction. We will never be able to use magnets to generate an economical fusion reaction because the energy required by the magnets to compress and “heat” the fuel will be greater than the energy released.

    Same principle goes for fossil fuel. The compounds are formed thanks to the intense heat and pressure generated by the mass of the planet. There is no work-around for the actual creation of energy. It’s the mass of the matter gathered from space that fuels such reactions. Fortunately matter is attracted matter by gravitation.

    “Creation” of free energy by man denies the Laws of Thermodynamics.

  71. Ken Harvey says:

    Nuke Nemesis says:
    September 2, 2011 at 6:44 am
    Karl-Johan Lehtinen says:
    September 2, 2011 at 2:53 am
    “Sooner or later we have to take this “newer” coal into use since we are emptying our fossil deposits at a terrible pace where demand has outgrown supply already in the 2030s. According to IEA we would need 3-4 Saudi Arabias to meet the demand by that time.

    The USA has a few centuries worth of coal. If we start exporting large amounts for world-wide needs, then the supply won’t last as long, of course. But like oil, the problem is not in lack of deposits but in having a large number of deposits declared off-limits by the state.”

    Known coal deposits that have never been exploited are manifold. Siberia and Zimbabwe each have more of these, a lot more, than the U.S. Most countries in southern Africa have unexploited coal and I suspect that this is true of many countries. It is the lack of nearby BIG markets and the cost of transport that has countermanded exploitation for a century or so. Those deposits will still be there when they are needed.

  72. Scott Covert says:

    Maybe this whole thing is a result of primal instinct. Human social nature has been responsible for our rapid success in nature. One social construct is fairness and sharing which helped build human society by allowing a general welfare among the tribes. This welfare allowed us to increase our numbers, fend off preditors, and allowed time for learning and the sharing of knowledge.

    It is inherent in humans to have empathy for those less fortunate. In the industrialized world we have more of everything than those in emerging nations, this causes guilt via our empathy toward those less fortunate. The whole environmental movement is a salve to assuage our guilt over having more.

    We live like king Midas and we feel guilty that the poor live like feudal kings. If we had everything we wanted, we would feel guilt about someone else having marginally less. If all you own is a stick, for example, you might feel bad for the other guy whom has no stick. If everyone had a stick, you might feel a small amount of guilt over someone elses stick being smaller or of a less popular color.

    There are people making a great deal of money off this guilt, they are secretly guilty which is why charity organizations exist. I could go on but everyone knows this, we just don’t want to talk about it.

  73. Mike Reed says:

    Sorry, I have no link available, but this note regarding “fossil fuels” might of interest. I recently stumbled upon a scientific journal article that claimed Russian scientists have for more than 50 years rejected the Western consensus about how oil is formed. Apparently, as a group, they contend oil is formed from pressure deep inside the earth, and that the process is ongoing. In short, oil is NOT a fossil fuel; photosynthesis is not involved in the creation of oil. Fascinating, if true.

    As I recall, the article was part of a web site that linked to dozens of other scientific journal articles. Wish my memory was better. The article further contended that since the Russians are among the world’s experts at locating oil deposits, their theory must of course be correct, or at least possibly correct.

    BTW, I am not paid by any fuel corporation, fossil or otherwise. This note has been included merely for discussion, not monetary reward.

  74. Mac the Knife says:

    John Day says:
    September 2, 2011 at 3:29 am
    “A brilliant essay, Indur, intended for the AGW/CAGW audience, who will be conflicted to discover that their worst enemy is also their best friend. (In the same sense that Mr. Obama might admire his own worst enemy (the Tea Party) as a very effective bunch of grass-roots Community Organizers)”

    John,
    No one should perceive The Tea Party as their ‘enemy’. Tea Party folks all want this country and its citizens to succeed, while embracing our private enterprise system, our ‘melting pot’ culture, and supporting our Constitution and Representative Republic of United States! The Tea Party embraces the teachings of Dr. Martin Luther King. We have judged Barack Hussein Obama on the contents of his character, and not the color of his skin, and found him profoundly lacking in experience, leadership, wisdom, and common sense.

    We (the Tea Party folks) are the ‘enemies’ of no politician or citizen. We are for fiscal restraint, balanced budgets, debt and interest payment reductions, and a smaller and less intrusive government. It’s as simple and straight forward as that.

  75. Mariwarcwm says:

    I don’t understand why people make such a fuss – all we are doing is returning sequestered CO2 to the atmosphere. If it didn’t cause the Earth to heat up dangerously before it was sequestered into these underground batteries, why should it cause any problem now?

    I worked out the other day why dinasaurs were so huge, and the ferns they lived on so tall. All that lovely not yet turned into batteries CO2 of course – about 5,000 parts per million was it? Now that all the carbon has all but been depleted, and CO2 is a measly 400 ppm, we have small trees and small animals, and humans, who are not bright enough to understand their own carbon based life form.

  76. Stick with carbon fuel. There is lots of it. Even with billions of grant money handed out like free candy, three energy of the future companies fail. Solyndra is the third such company to file for bankruptcy. . Spectrawatt Inc. of Hopewell Junction, N.Y., filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Aug. 19. Evergreen Solar Inc. of Marlboro, Mass., filed for Chapter 11 on Aug. 15.

    Coal, oil, methane, propane, nuclear. Energy you can rely on. The fuzzy make you feel good wind and solar energy only sounds nice.. When you need most, it simply is not sufficient.

  77. Ric Werme says:

    Mike Reed says:
    September 2, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I recently stumbled upon a scientific journal article that claimed Russian scientists have for more than 50 years rejected the Western consensus about how oil is formed. Apparently, as a group, they contend oil is formed from pressure deep inside the earth, and that the process is ongoing. In short, oil is NOT a fossil fuel; photosynthesis is not involved in the creation of oil. Fascinating, if true.

    Careful – this discussion pops up from time to time, Anthony generally has to squash it before it turns into a slugfest. See http://wattsupwiththat.com/2009/05/15/natural-petroleum-seeps-release-equivalent-of-eight-to-80-exxon-valdez-oil-spills before getting too caught up in this go-around.

    Or Google |”abiotic oil” site:wattsupwiththat.com| for more mentions here.

  78. Gary Hladik says:

    Alexander says (September 2, 2011 at 2:34 am): “3. This is why the Nature created humans. Their biological role is to burn all fossil fuels, thus returning the stored energy and resources into the biological cycle of Earth, thus enriching it. :-)”

    I’ve come to the conclusion that Gaia created us to protect her from those pesky asteroid impacts that keep messing up her garden. :-)

    Richard says (September 2, 2011 at 4:41 am): “The viewers might consider the life of mold on the skin of an orange. From small beginnings, the mold prospers at a rapid rate until if totally covers the skin of the orange. Then as the orange is consumed the mold dies leaving behind mold spores seeking another orange. Earth is the human orange.”

    Oooooh, good analogy!

    Except of course the “human orange” loses only trivial amounts of resources to its environment (all the iron ever mined is still here, for example), the orange’s resources are continually recycled thanks to the energy supplied by a nearby “pumpkin” (yes, the sun), and the “mold” has the curious property of reducing its reproductive rate when it gets rich.

    Come to think of it, not such a good analogy. :-(

  79. LazyTeenager says:

    Well the battery analogy does make for a nice picture.

    So over millions of years the fossils fuels are stored and then we release their energy over a period of 100 years.

    If this is a battery we charge it up over night and then put a short circuit across the terminals.

    You should all do this experiment to see what happens. I am predicting that you will burn down you house.

  80. Dave Worley says:

    Lazyteen,
    The vast majority of hydrocarbons in the ground will never be recovered.
    We represent a trickle discharge at most.

  81. ferd berple says:

    This is a very interesting map, showing the real global trade in carbon

    http://coal.infomine.com/commodities/Global/Assets/Images/CoalSeaborneTrade.jpg

    Australia is the biggest supplier. Europe and Japan the biggest consumers.

  82. Mac the Knife says:

    LazyTeenager says:
    September 2, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Lazyteenager,
    I accept your concerns that man made CO2 pollution must be stopped as your genuine and sincere belief. I urge you to demonstrate your personal commitment to eliminate your man made CO2 contribution by ceasing exhalation immediately. Each of your exhalations increases the local CO2 concentration by 2 orders of magnitude, unacceptable by your personal commitment to reducing CO2 emissions, as your comments on many of the topics discussed on WUWT have so aptly expressed…..

    “You should do this experiment to see what happens.” If you succeed, we will all mournfully applaud your determinedly fatal commitment and take up a collection to send flowers to your bereaved mum and poppy. If you fail, well, we must conclude that you are disingenuous in both your commentary and your actions.

  83. James Sexton says:

    LazyTeenager says:
    September 2, 2011 at 6:45 pm

    Well the battery analogy does make for a nice picture.

    So over millions of years the fossils fuels are stored and then we release their energy over a period of 100 years.
    ================================================
    I’m wondering, how do you know this? You have no idea how long it took, nor to you know how much of it we’ve released. It is silly to state such things as if you do know. Worse, even if what you state is true, you don’t know that it isn’t better for humanity that we did such. Why lament success? Even if it may be fleeting?

  84. otter17 says:

    No references in the article, oh well.

    Hey, and the fossil fuel batteries are even rechargeable… as long as you don’t mind waiting for millions of years and the right geological conditions to occur. Oh joy.

    What was the Earth’s climate like back when these fossil fuels were formed? How long did it take to create them? Were they all formed at the same time? Is it a wise idea to be using up our batteries and putting the newly released CO2 out there at such a fast pace? Much more to answer, but alas the article can’t cover everything.

  85. Septic Matthew says:

    Geoff Sherrington wrote: Trees are no longer sustainable once their repeated removal has taken required nutrients like P and K from the soil, leaving it barren. Then you have to fertilize. Guess what?

    The trucks that take biomass feedstock to the refinery can take the non-carbon nutrients back to the farms. P and K recycle in a small loop, C recycles in a large loop.

    Not a problem.

  86. Lady Life Grows says:

    How nice! A chance to inform Indur Goklany that he is one of my favorite scientists, partly because he is well-reasoned and competent, but mainly because his approach to things is supportive of human life. I like people.

    The “problem” with fossil fuels is that they recycle carbon that has been buried in the Earth for a long time, thus making:

    1. More renewable energy if the CO2 grows new trees or crops that are burned for fuel. Thus, fossil fuels (carbon fuels, wherever they really came from) and only fossil fuels are SUPERRENEWABLE.

    2. More life on Earth, which “greens” actually hate. Fossil fuels and only fossil fuels can increase the life on Earth. I have a picture, which may or may not come out here:

    http://i1088.photobucket.com/albums/i332/LadyLifeGrows/Local%20BizPix/LifePurpose/Desert2GreenwAro.jpg

  87. Brian H says:

    Once upon a time the Earth had a much thicker atmosphere, mostly carbon dioxide. Virtually all of that eventually got tied up in minerals like limestone by marine organisms. Very little of it ended up as oil. Virtually all the oil and gas on and in the planet was formed far deeper and hotter abiotically, and has been contaminated by small amounts of biological material later. (Biogenic oil would have significant amounts of magnesium and iron; “fossil fuel” oil has almost none. Hence it is not biotic.)
    Atmospheric CO2 is at near-plant-starvation levels. Boosting it would be and has been a great idea, but it’s hard to get back to optimum levels around 2,000 ppm. We should give it our best shot, though. Any warming it brings is a bonus, since all life, including humanity and its civilizations, do much better when it’s warming rather than cooling. But CO2 has a dependent relationship to warming, not causative. Oh, well. Can’t have everything.

  88. Khwarizmi says:

    Rick Werme Careful – this (abiotic hydrocarbon) discussion pops up from time to time, Anthony generally has to squash it before it turns into a slugfest.

    Rick – I’ve not yet seen Anthony squash or quash an abiotic discussion.
    How did you quash the thermodynamic constraints imposed on the fossil theory?

    ==========
    The constraints imposed on chemical evolution by the second law of thermodynamics are briefly reviewed, and the effective prohibition of transformation, in the regime of temperatures and pressures characteristic of the near-surface crust of the Earth, of biological molecules into hydrocarbon molecules heavier than methane is recognized.

    J. F. Kenney , Vladimir A. Kutcherov, Nikolai A. Bendeliani, and Vladimir A. Alekseev
    http://www.pnas.org/content/99/17/10976.long
    =============

    Geochemical (abiotic) organics:
    =============
    Reaction 3:
    Methane + Magnetite → Ethane + Hematite
    nCH_4 + nFe_3O_4 + nH_2O \rarr C_2H_6 + Fe_2O_3 + HCO_3 + H^+
    Reaction 3 results in n-alkane hydrocarbons, including linear saturated hydrocarbons, alcohols, aldehydes, ketones, aromatics, and cyclic compounds.[27]
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Abiogenic_petroleum_origin
    =========

    And,
    ========
    Titan, Saturn’s largest moon, is a mysterious place. Its thick atmosphere is rich in organic compounds. Some of them would be signs of life if they were on our planet.
    http://www.esa.int/SPECIALS/Cassini-Huygens/SEM696HHZTD_0.html
    =========

    In other words, the hydrocarbons and organic molecules on Titan are produced abiotically.
    There was no carboniferous era on Titan.
    Chemistry is universal.
    No special pleadings for Earth.

  89. Septic Matthew says: September 3, 2011 at 11:10 am “P and K recycle in a small loop, C recycles in a large loop.”

    Matthew, If you study economic geology, you will realise that K comes from places like Canada and western Sth America. P comes from Florida, used to come from some Pacific Islands like Nauru and Christmas Is. Look them up on Google Earth and see if that’s a small loop to your farm. (These are not the only sources, so my response is simplified).
    I meant in more expanded terms that one cannot farm any ground for long without depleting at least one critical nutrient that will have to be replaced as fertilizer. As for encouraging fertility with sugar, you have to face the same problem with repeated cropping of cane or beet. Sugar cane is very hungry for nitrogen from synthetic fertilizers.
    This also applies to this magical terra preta of which so much junk is written. One can achieve much the same by fertlizing ordinary ground with coke from coke ovens used in steel making. Unfortunately, inexorably, over long enough time, it oxidizes and gets taken up, bit by bit, by plants and mostly ends up as – you guessed it – atmospheric CO2. There ain’t no such thing as a free lunch.
    There are many mistakes in the brains of green advocates, arising because they look at problems in the short term and fail to realise that even if you delay CO2 production by 1,000 years, you’ll still have the problem 1,000 years later.

  90. Dave Worley says:

    “Is it a wise idea to be using up our batteries and putting the newly released CO2 out there at such a fast pace?”

    Only if those in the future can make better use of it than we can. Better fed and better educated societies will be less likely to engage in hostilities where innocent folks tend to die in large numbers. The best investment we can make in the future is to bring less developed societies up to the higher standards we now enjoy. The sooner the better.

    The sooner the world becomes civilized the less energy we will waste.

  91. Jake says:

    “However, CO2 isn’t a pollutant.”

    I’m going to go double the amount of salt in my saltwater fish tank. It’s not a pollutant, so I’m sure the fish won’t care.

  92. G. Karst says:

    Jake says:
    September 5, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    “However, CO2 isn’t a pollutant.”

    I’m going to go double the amount of salt in my saltwater fish tank. It’s not a pollutant, so I’m sure the fish won’t care.

    Try doubling the amount of water. Did the fish die? How about doubling the amount of gravel? Did the fish die? Double the amount of glass? Air? LOL GK

  93. Brian H says:

    Jake says:
    September 5, 2011 at 10:13 pm

    “However, CO2 isn’t a pollutant.”

    I’m going to go double the amount of salt in my saltwater fish tank. It’s not a pollutant, so I’m sure the fish won’t care.

    Just double the amount of CO2 dissolved in the water. I assure you the fish won’t care.

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