Near Misses, Tight Squeezes And Canned Food Catastrophes: Mom’s Motorized Cart Odyssey

By Andrew Jenner

I can’t have been the only child who dreamed of commandeering one of those motorized shopping carts that sit tantalizingly unattended at grocery stores entrances. And I’m surely not the only adult who still, somewhere in his heart of childish hearts, would kill for the opportunity to go joy-riding down the frozen foods aisle, spinning donuts on the shiny waxed floor, veering madly around corners Mario Kart-style. Wouldn’t it be fun?
By age 28, though, I’d pretty much accepted that this wasn’t going to happen, that firsthand knowledge of self-propelled shopping carts will only come once I’m sufficiently withered and broken down to actually need one, that I will probably never be able to muster the necessary chutzpah and disregard for basic decency required to pull off such a stunt.
And then, a fortunate thing happened: my mother developed severe and terrible plantar fasciitis, and in September, underwent an invasive and painful foot surgery requiring many weeks of recovery – and entitling her to full operational privileges of any and all motorized shopping carts throughout the land. Continue reading “Near Misses, Tight Squeezes And Canned Food Catastrophes: Mom’s Motorized Cart Odyssey” »

Cuccinelli Abuses Office

Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli (Image from AP)

Virginia Attorney General Cuccinelli has filed a petition on behalf of the Commonwealth of Virginia to request the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to reconsider the regulation of greenhouse gases, including carbon dioxide.  The petition says that the hacked emails (“climategate”) of the scientists coordinating the International Panel on Climate Change (IPC) raise such doubts as to the integrity of the IPCC conclusions that the EPA should reconsider regulation. In general, the petition questions the validity of anthropogenic climate change, that is, global warming caused by man made emissions.

On July 29, 2010, the EPA denied the AG’s petition, citing the Continue reading “Cuccinelli Abuses Office” »

This post was submitted by Bishop Dansby.

Hope for Replacing Fossil Fuels

On May 19, 2010, the National Academy of Sciences advised the government “to take drastic action” to slow global warming. I don’t think the technical and economic problems are insurmountable. Rather, it is the political will that is missing, mainly in the conservative camp.

It may be that many conservatives are taking some of their cues from Senator James Inhofe. After all, he is Barbara Boxer’s counterpart on the Environmental and Public Works Committee. Inhofe has openly and loudly proclaimed that global warming is a hoax. His portion of the EPW website proclaims that 700 scientists dispute the claims of the IPCC on global warming.

Inhofe claims “An abundance of new peer-reviewed studies, analyses, and data error discoveries in the last several months has prompted scientists to declare that fear of catastrophic man-made global warming “bites the dust” and the scientific underpinnings for alarm may be “falling apart.” However, the only recent article that he cites, and on which he primarily relies, is “Heat Capacity, Time Constant, and Sensitivity of Earth’s Climate System,” by Brookhaven National Lab scientist Stephen Schwartz.

I corresponded with Dr. Schwartz and it turns out that Dr. Schwartz’s paper simply said was that the sensitivity of global temperature to CO2 rise was less than claimed by the IPCC report. Further, Dr. Schwartz has now revised the paper, doubling his figure on sensitivity. Even though the revised figure is still on the low side of the IPCC range, Dr. Schwartz told me by email:

“But if we consider the consequences of increased concentrations of greenhouse gases, even for a rather low sensitivity the expected climate consequences would be anywhere from serious to severe to catastrophic.”

Serious to severe to catastrophic!  As you can see, Inhofe is playing fast and loose with the truth.

Most people turn off to the issue of global warming because they fear there is no solution. Although we will use a number of types of renewables as well as conservation and energy efficiency to meet the global warming problem, calculations using solar photovoltaic (PV) technology provide a quick and dirty way to assess the feasibility of accomplishing the task.

The total electric generating capacity of the United States is about 900 gigawatts (almost one terawatt). Eighty percent of the electrical generating capacity of the United States could be replaced by installing photovoltaics (PV) on existing rooftops (source). The cost would be about $2 trillion. If this capacity was implemented over a twenty year period, the per capita yearly cost would be $335.

Of course, we use more than just electrical power in the United States. The total annual use of energy used in the United States is 29,000 terawatt-hours, or 3.3 terawatts average power output (source).

About 85% of our power comes from fossil fuels, or 2.8 terawatts. PV generates about 10 watts per square foot, so you need 0.28 trillion square feet (280 billion square feet) of PV panels to replace all of the fossil fuel used the United States. That comes to 10,000 square miles, or 200 square miles per state. As already shown, over 1/3 of that is already available in rooftops. The cost would be about $5.6 trillion dollars, or $18,666 per person in the United States. Spread over 50 years, it would cost $373 per year per person to provide all of our energy needs with photovoltaics.

Another interesting calculation can be gotten by looking at the impact of the Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill. This spill is expected to cost more than the Exxon Valdez oil spill ($8.5 billion), and the stock price of BP has dropped $18 billion (source). If we use a figure of $18 billion as the cost of this spill, for this amount of money one could build photovoltaic generating capacity of 9 gigawatts. Over an estimated lifetime of 50 years, the energy produced would be about 740,000 gigawatt-hours, which at a modest price $0.10 per kilowatt-hour has a value of $74 billion. The Deepwater Horizon well had the potential of 50M barrels, which at today’s oil price of $70/barrel has a value of $3.5 billion. Thus, the value of energy that could be produced by PV installations built from the cost of this spill would be 21 times the maximum value of the energy that would have been produced by the Deepwater Horizon well.

Might there be a message in that?

This post was submitted by Bishop Dansby.

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