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Common Purposes

What are the Common Purposes? I've dwelt on that question since first reading my alma mater's founding principle "for the purposes of instructing persons, who may choose to apply themselves, in the application of science to the common purposes of life". The question, more than any answer I may ever offer, has guided me through many personal and professional endeavors. And, if I have learned anything it is that I have derived my greatest joy when I, as part of a team, have made a lasting difference to improve the lives of others. Should the thoughts I share here and the ensuing discussion lead others to ask the same question, to seek their own answers and to experience the same joy as I, then I shall consider this effort of value.

Image: "The New Shoes" by Jane Bucci. This work is based on the touching photo snapped by Gerald Waller in 1946, in Austria. The little boy, who lived in an orphanage, had just been given new shoes by the American Red Cross.

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Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

Posted June 29, 2013 12:00 AM by MillMatt

Methinks, yet again, there is change blowing in the wind. US President Barack Obama presented his plan for reducing

carbon emissions to thwart climate change at Georgetown University on June 25, 2013. I confess I have only heard the summary from several news sources and understand (from these sources) that he is focusing on increased renewable energy sources (possibly a doubling of such capacity) and reducing the amount of coal burned to generate electricity.

Even if I have misunderstood the pundits, there has already been a fair amount of discussion on what is right and wrong with these approaches. And, of course, it is evident that their level of agreement or disagreement is based upon the economic impact his plan will have on the pundit. I don't know that anyone in the coal industry wishes to see their business face more regulatory hurdles, taxes, fines, etc.

Frankly, I don't know how far any government can go to restrict economic activity especially as it relates to electricity. Almost all of us are tethered to electricity and for many (the ill, the infirmed) it is literally as necessary as water and air. As such, it is not easy for the populace to grapple with immediate needs (for electricity) versus long term needs (for a sustainable environment). Yes, we can do our part to reduce, reuse, and recycle, to be more efficient but we want our mobility, our information, our communication, our lights, our heat, and our air conditioning. As I said above, government regulation can only go so far.

As I see it, the newfound shale gas and tight oil that is now being tapped in parts of the United States is the beginning of a revolution that changes the equation in a way that can be good for both the climate change issue that President Obama addressed and consumer demand (I'll call it a 'want' and not a 'need' but wars have been fought over similar 'wants').

At this point, I can only ask questions but I think it is important to ask questions and sustain a dialog because I believe that the world economy could be (and probably will be) transformed by the energy and raw materials derived from shale gas and tight oil not only in the United States but globally. The drilling and production now underway may transform the petrochemical industry and may provide energy for use by utilities, industry, and consumers that is cleaner and more efficient. If so, we may want to apply more technical, financial, and industrial resources to these efforts. And we may find that the application of these resources trump any legislated resources (or, as they are often seen, constraints).

I believe I am doing what I can and hope to do more; so the singular question I ask is: Are you?

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Power-User

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#1

Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

06/30/2013 3:02 AM

The change blowing in the wind is global climate change, or weather weirding, as the poetic physicists quoth. Read www.sinocism.com for how China is rapidly dumping polluting and inefficient steel and aluminum plants, by governmental fiat, causing panic in Australia, which exports coal and iron ore. Read www.realclimate.org for a balanced presentation of the economics of pollution. Your initial paragraphs on common purpose can't just be vague happy talk. One of the MAJOR purposes of government is to restrain the less social element in society from wrecking it in their search for frat party funding. There are many places where externalities are dumped on the population, and coal is possibly the most egregious (although factory pig, beef and chicken farming are a close second). Making a profit by unfairly leaving pollution to be paid for by public taxation is wrong by common purpose standards. I could go on...

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#13
In reply to #1

Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

08/10/2013 12:03 AM

"One of the MAJOR purposes of government is to restrain the less social element in society from wrecking it in their search for frat party funding." Somehow I missed that in the Declaration of Independence and Constitution of the United States of America. Any particular article?

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#14
In reply to #13

Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

08/10/2013 10:41 AM

Both of your described documents have a lot of omissions and shortcomings, they are written on paper (parchment more exactly) instead of stone because the writers (founders of this country) realized that they were incomplete and intended as platform for a successful society to be applied by reasonable people, not mindless dopes and "Wingers". " ormondotvos" used the word "Government" which is the name of the only entity entrusted with the future, so after the "frat party" is over and the neighbors are left with beer cans and puke on their lawns, "government" is supposed to make the frat boys pay for the clean up. Coal, oil, gas, are all components of an ancient earth, and they were captured by plants in a time before humans existed. By releasing them into the atmosphere we are changing the gas mix (this is an engineering forum?) back to what it was millions of years ago. Given that the earth is a closed system and we still have to live here, is that wise? Especially since there are alternatives. So who want's the Frat Boys (who only want more and the future be damed) to decide, and who wants the Government (which has the self interest of needing the future)? It's not a good choice, but unless you are a Frat Boy, reason should guide your choice.

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#16
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Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

08/10/2013 6:36 PM

"ormondotvos" used the word "Government" which is the name of the only entity entrusted with the future"...... really? I read the documents as the individual is served by the government. It is the individual's future and liberty. And, yes this is part of science. It is science and invention and capital investment by individuals in pure research that provides new discoveries and products and jobs and continuing wealth.... that in turn provides money for taxes for a government to secure the Individual's liberty..... not for clean up crews. Climate change is a daily event where I live and it is the fossil fuels that currently provide most of my electric power. I will be happy to see it replaced by the renewable methods I also use daily and see the capitalist companies in which I am heavily invested that make highly advanced batteries, electric motors, engines and pharmaceuticals continue to alleviate problems incrementally. I am indefatigable about finding, using and integrating new technologies along with my design, engineering and science fellows. However, I do tire sometimes of those who claim the high ground on the backs of those who have fought for, tirelessly worked, invented, patented and invested for the advancements in life and liberty you now enjoy. You seem to berate the very capitalism from which you have sucked so mightily and cast aside for an unscientific vagary called 'climate change'. As colleagues come upon more economical, efficient and beneficial means of producing energy the market will adapt and adopt the better science. I have seen lately the government throw huge sums of poor and rich peoples taxes into ecological money pits. Yet the same government officials can 'inside trade' (for capitalist investors it is illegal) and literally have made millions as their reward. I really like and continue to be a part of real science as a catalyst for positive change. I pledge to do all I can to enable every individual to pursue his/her God given right to be entrusted a future in which the government is subordinate to the body individual.

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#17
In reply to #16

Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

09/02/2013 6:01 PM

Apparently you didn't have to sign off on any patent rights to the purely profit driven corporation you invented the golden egg for...

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#2

Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

06/30/2013 7:06 PM

Natural gas is certainly cleaner than coal; however, both emit lots of carbon dioxide. How about a system that emits ZERO carbon dioxide? That is fast nuclear electric power generation. It is capable of replacing both coal and natural gas if the people (and government, which shut down development in 1994) would let it. I favor the Integral Fast Reactor, but there are a couple of other designs. It eliminates many other problems of the thermal reactors now being used. I have a summary of its capabilities; should I post it here?

I am just starting to read the book Plentiful Energy by Till and Chang. So far (up to Chapter 3) it is very good. There is also a movie just out: Pandora's Promise, which I haven't seen, because it has not been shown close to me. It is supposed to be very good about environmentalists changing their minds and now supporting nuclear.

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#3
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Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

06/30/2013 10:39 PM

I already can see the change in headlines: Fuel source end! We only have 50 years of nuclear fuel left. DOOM! Radiation kills hundrets in an incident last week in Whatever near Everywhere. The end deposit quesition goes in the fourth stage after three stages where unsuccessful with Country X not agreeing to the disposal in the Himalyoos and deep see offshore Beachton.

People are scared about global radiation level going up from 200 milli something to 250 milli something.

Lets face it we will burn fuel as long as we have it! If there is no gas it is oil, if no oil it is trees if no trees its camel poo and sewergas. I dont know about you but I still love my food cooked and my butt warm in the winter!

Probably need to read that book to understand where the optimism comes from!

You are welcome to post the capabilities but better in a new post as discussion.

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#4
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Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

07/01/2013 11:03 AM

Yes, please read the book. You might also try Prescription for the Planet by Blees,which is available as an ebook. I liked the first few chapters, but thought the rest verged on science fiction--but we do need visionaries.

They say nuclear fuel will last forever; although as an engineer, I know "forever" cannot be, but it is a very long time even without mining more.

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#5
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Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

07/02/2013 12:39 PM

And now there is this!

What a world. Full of surprises!

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#6
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Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

07/02/2013 1:10 PM

Yes--A close friend is very involved in the Coal Energy field for 40 years. He says the basic premise made by the article is true, but the numbers quoted are wrong.

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Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

09/02/2013 6:10 PM
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#7

Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

07/06/2013 12:39 AM

Coal is pretty much just carbon with a pinch of mercury, sulfur, and a few other heavy metals. The politically correct "Clean Coal" is just a pacifier for all the miners who must loose their jobs to save the world. Somebody has got to fes up to them that they need to be retrained for another job...Burning coal just leaves the air with less O2 and more co2 which is the problem. We are returning the atmosphere to a condition it was in millions of years ago when the plant animal population was very different, and so was the weather. Solar and wind are being deployed at an accelerating rate. Even some corporations are taking the hint, Google and Apple for example are building huge solar arrays. Apple has a data center powered by fuel cells that use farm animal waste to generate electricity. What has to happen now is for all the "deniers" to shut up and get out of the way! Let the engineers do their work.

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#8
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Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

07/06/2013 11:51 AM

I agree that coal has to be phased out, and the workers retrained; natural gas is not an option because it also uses O2 and produces CO2 even though it is cleaner. However, wind, solar, water, and others cannot supply the energy demand that we have--there is not enough land even if we did not have to deal with NIMBY. That means that we have to use nuclear, fast neutron nuclear is the best. It will improve all worrisome aspects of the thermal nuclear that most are acquainted with.

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#9
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Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

07/06/2013 8:03 PM

Just a reminder, when touting Solar, Wind, etc. Please add in the costs of production, including attendant pollution of such production, as well the end cycle costs. How are silicon wafers made? What waste is involved? Toxicity? How about the rare earth batteries used in Priuses and the like? How are these metals mined? Processed? How are these byproducts to be recycled? How much precious water is used in the Solar Farms? Now with wind, why are the Environmentalists starting to turn against this industry? Because of the attendant bird kills, noise, visual pollution, and costs of catastrophic failures, among others. Costs of these "boutique industries" are normally hidden, where as in mature industries such as oil, coal and nuclear, we are constantly bombarded by these "Attached costs", and their down-the-line pollution, by the Promoters of the New Industries, as they attempt to distance THEIR product from the OLD ,dirty, WAY... Just want apples compared to apples etc.

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#10
In reply to #9

Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

07/06/2013 11:10 PM

Yes there is no fee lunch when it comes to energy. However your use of the word "Boutique" is an attempt to protect the status quo and ignore the size of the rewards that new ideas can produce. Solar cells do have a cost of production, however I personally have solar panels over 20 years old still producing electricity. They are washed by the rain, and I have had to maintain some of the electrical connections(learned something from that) but they just work and the cost in terms of dollars and energy have been recovered long ago. New panels produced today are way more efficient and will pay the cost of manufacture and install even quicker. The standard automobile that we have been sold since the model "T" has an overall efficiency of about 12%, that much wasted energy on a world wide scale is part of the problem.The Priuse is only a first step in transforming the model "T" as are all of the other electric cars trying to succeed. Like I said earlier, let the engineers and scientists do their work, it's all solvable. We just need more "can do" people and less "can't do" people to make it happen before the cost in environmental damage becomes too great.

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#11
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Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

07/07/2013 12:26 AM

What is your take on the Ethanol substitution? I see it as a give away to the Farm lobby. Another substitized boondoggle. Germany, Holland, France and other countries are abandoning wind and solar because of costs/ energy ratios. Nuclear has a much better ratio..Remember , Fukishima was a First Generation plant, and still withstood a tremendous earthquake, AND resulting Tsunami--Wonder how a Solar Field Array would do in that situation? Or a large Windfarm? Rain washes YOUR solar array, but what about the massive arrays that are meant to partially serve cities, that are located in the DESERT?? Also, landline transmission costs from remote desert areas are HUGE! Look at Solyndra give away, , and others, and the recent pull out of Siemans in the large array production. IF it doesn't work out financially, than it must be paid for somehow. I feel that Nuclear gives us at least 50 years of cheap, reliable energy until we come up with a real solution--Maybe cold fusion or something like it, but covering the earth in solar panels and windmills, I am afraid, is not the end all. Solar works very well for small scale applications, like housing (New solar shingles for instance), and other off the grid , but at some time, those panels lose efficiency, and must be replaced. Can you recycle silicon? Have no idea...

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#12
In reply to #11

Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

07/07/2013 8:26 PM

I agree that nuclear is what we need; however it should be fast neutron nuclear which will give us much, much more than 50 years of energy.

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#15
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Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

08/10/2013 11:03 AM

c-mac, I'm with you on ethanol, as produced by corn farmers. Other ways of production from agricultural waste seem more useful but in early stages of invention (more work for engineers and scientists) and liquid fuel is useful. Your solar facts are a bit wrong, have you been listening to "Rush"? Germany is over 25% and on target for 35% renewable. Siemens and others, including Evergreen Solar have been victims of market manipulation by commodity speculators who have caused huge spikes in the silane feed stock used for making the cells (it only takes one billionaire to take over a market that small and bring down all the associated companies) as well as a policy by the Chinese government to control all Solar panel production (basically they are dumping their panels at below cost to force everyone else out of business) worldwide. So far earthquakes have not done any damage to the wind and solar farms in California, which last I heard was a major earthquake zone. It is a lot easier to secure a 100lb solar panel to a mounting structure than a nuclear reactor. Fukishima is leaking, Chernobyl is being cooled with liquid nitrogen for the next 200 years. Silicon is glass, and is recyclable.

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#20
In reply to #15

Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

04/29/2014 1:35 PM

Alcohol from waste - Methanol has been in the making for a hundred years - nothing good coming so forget that for now.

Your numbers for Germany are cherry picked for low consumption and max production - not annualized - same for the RE number.

The terrible Chinese did it to the industry - try every industry

Your Fukishima blurb is nice green garbage. The reactor should have been protected properly. A yes man culture like the Japanese live by is not good in this respect. Nuclear can be safe.

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#19

Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

10/25/2013 5:25 AM

The nonchalant approach to fracking, from the Government on down is quite awe inspiring. I imagine that this kind of attitude comes from our having developed a kind of ingrained trust that the Government has every body's best interests at heart. Maybe, given such a situation, the best thing to do might be to set out the facts and let people decide on what they think for themselves. To begin with, the same logistics govern fracking as in the normal drilling process. Shale wells start strong and fade fast and a well that might be prolific in the beginning will fade out to next to nothing in just a couple of years. The good sites get targeted first and the less likely ones later. Fracking is also more expensive than ordinary drilling for oil or natural gas. Horizontal shale drilling might cost anything from 3.5 million dollars in limestone formations to 9 million dollars in harder rock formations. The cost of normal vertical drilling would be between $400,000 to $600,000. The life span of normal oil wells is also spectacularly longer .

Much of the additional cost is due to the additives that are used in shale drilling:-

1)To begin with approximately 5 million gallons (17.5 million litres) of fresh water-salt water won't do-are needed for each well that is drilled.

2) Mixed into this freshwater are around 50,000 gallons of hydrochloric acid (to dissolve the lime stone).

3) Then 1000 gallons of antibacterial solution are needed to kill the organisms that might eat into the pipes.

4)Next, a surfactant is added to reduce the frictional coefficient of the water and a solution to inhibit scaling.

5) Depending on the make-up of the soil fungicides maybe added to kill any life forms that might start to grow in the fracked fissures

6) Finally 2 million pounds of sand are mixed with the water to prop the fractures open.

7) Sometime diesel fuel is used (illegally) as an additional additive.


So far so good, it doesn't sound too frightening until you learn that none of that fresh water can ever be used again. It is just not commercially viable to incur the colossal costs incurred in cleaning up flow back or produced water as it is known. Instead the water might be cleaned up to an extent so that it can be re-used for fracking, this is known as 'processed water'. Some of the chemicals that are mixed into fracking fluids; lead, uranium, ethylene glycol, mercury, radium, methanol, hydrochloric acid and formaldehyde to name just a few. See Link About 80% of the water used in fracking is supposed to come back to the surface (often it doesn't) but it then has to be put ideally in steel containers, or non contaminating ponds where it will be sequestered for the next few thousands of years. No-one knows exactly what happens to the water that does not come back to the surface, but the thousands of recorded cases of prime farm land turning to wilderness are too numerous to ignore. The shale oil industry is also employing spin doctors to protect their interests. Not surprisingly, these are the same firms that were hired by the tobacco industry.

It is interesting to note that in Pittsburgh the water supply was found to be so polluted after fracking operations that an inquiry was held and a total ban on fracking put in place. Click here for more.

Now the shale oil companies are gunning for New York, Will they get away with it, riding roughshod over public sentiment and environmental and health concerns. More important, should the Government be making these decisions for us?

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#21

Re: Shale Gas, Tight Oil, Carbon Emissions and You

11/09/2015 7:01 AM

I could write volumes on this subject from several standpoints involving science and politics . But to boil it down it actually comes down to this , Barrack Obama is an incredibly flawed individual . His arrogance has blinded him in that he lacks the ability to look at both sides of the equation .

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