Electric cars - there are all sorts of environmental problems

Perjantai 5.5.2023 klo 14.22 - Mikko Nikinmaa

In the name of combatting climate change, car manufacturing is rapidly changing from producing petrol- and diesel-consuming cars to electric cars. It is reasonable to ask, if electric cars are a sustainable solution. There are several problems, which should mean that one cannot increase the number of cars, even if they are electric. Rather, to combat climate and other environmental changes, the number of cars should be drastically reduced. The paragraphs below indicate the reasoning for this.

First, electric cars are fossil fuel-free only if the electricity used in them is produced not using coal and oil. The overall electricity use increases markedly with increasing number of electric cars. Hitherto the proportion of electricity produced using fossil fuels has not really decreased, even though the electricity produced using renewable sources has increased markedly. This is due to the increase in the total electricity use. So, presently an electric car user may increase the use of fossil fuels in electricity production (naturally depending on the country).

Second, production of cars is using a lot of steel. Steel production is currently one of the most important sources of emitted carbon dioxide. For example, out of the total carbon dioxide emitted by Sweden, steel production accounts for more than 10 %. The steel producers are aware of their large carbon footprint, and companies are currently competing to have carbon-free steel production. Carbon-free steel will undoubtedly be eagerly bought by car manufacturers. However, its production requires a lot of electricity, so fossil fuel-free electricity production is the key also here.

Third, present electric cars are on average bigger and heavier than petrol-fuelled cars. As a consequence, their production needs more steel. Also, their batteries use more of the metals, which must be mined with dire consequences to the environment. Some of the needed metals occur only in low concentrations even in the richest ores. Electric cars must thus become smaller and new types of batteries utilizing commonly occurring compounds developed.

Fourth, almost every day news alerts us about the dangers of microplastics. It is hardly ever mentioned that by far the most important source of them is tyrewear. They cannot be removed in sewage treatment, as they are produced wherever cars are driven. The amount of particles released increases with the weight of the car, so the heavier electric cars are a bigger problem than current petrol cars.

All in all, electric cars have several problems, so we should try to reduce the number of automobiles in use. By doing that, some land now taken up by roads would be free for other uses. Doing it may be required for the wellbeing of environment.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuels, microplastics, steel production, electricity

Energy production using nuclear fusion in 30 years. True this time?

Tiistai 13.12.2022 klo 15.49 - Mikko Nikinmaa

When I became interested in science in 1960’s, I read with excitement about the possibility of energy production via nuclear fusion. Unlimited amount of energy would be produced without any waste material. It was estimated that commercial nuclear fusion power plants would be functioning in 30 years.

In 1970’s there was a severe oil crisis. People were saving electricity, because of the very high price of oil. Individuals with a strong belief on nuclear fusion consolidated the public promising that the oil price fluctuations would not matter soon, since nuclear fusion power plants would produce plentiful of electricity in 30 years.

When worries of climate change started in 1990’s-2000’s, individuals trusting on mankind’s capacity to solve environmental problems with advances in technology were of the opinion that nuclear fusion could replace fossil fuels in energy production in 30 years.

For the past 60 years, commercial energy production with nuclear fusion has been hoped to happen in 30 years. So, the news from Livermore Laboratory showing that irradiation of small amount of hydrogen with laser beams produced more energy than put in by the laser beams indicates that a controlled fusion was achieved give real hope that nuclear fusion can form an important energy source in 30 years.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: electricity production, nuclear power, climate change

Tidal Energy - an Almost Untapped Major Energy Source

Tiistai 29.11.2022 klo 13.39 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Moon gravity creates tides, felt everywhere in oceanic coasts. Tides have immense energy, probably more so than the inland waters, which have been used for generating electricity for years. Furthermore, as flowing water, tides are very regular, occurring regardless of sunshine or wind. Thus, the tidal energy does not suffer from the problems with solar and wind power, i.e., marked daily or seasonal variation. Further, huge tides wash the coasts of many of the world’s rich countries, and in principle the technology for generating electricity from tidal energy is already available.

Because of the above, one would imagine that tidal power features strongly in the renewable energy sector. But no, so far there are only a couple of experimental tidal power plants in function. The main reasons for this are probably the following: First, there was no tradition of converting tidal energy to usable power. In contrast, windmills have been around for at least a thousand years, as also riverine power stations. Second, since coal and oil have been cheap, generating energy using the fossil fuels has been the preferred way for energy production.

The situation must change now that we shall combat climate change. A major argument of the fossil fuel lobbying groups has been that the green shift is not really possible, since wind and solar power have marked production fluctuations. The same argument is used by nuclear power advocates, who maintain that in order to get assured constancy of energy production, nuclear power plants are required. However, tidal energy power plants will produce energy at a predictable rate, and building them is both cheaper and more rapid than nuclear power plants. Also, they do not generate carbon dioxide emissions thus representing a true green shift.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, electricity, energy production, green shift, fossil fuels

Ban Bitcoin Mining to Combat Climate Change

Maanantai 10.1.2022 klo 19.02 - Mikko Nikinmaa

One would imagine that electricity use in a rich dark Scandinavian country is excessively high and should be reduced to decrease the use of fossil fuels. However, in comparison to the electricity use of bitcoin mining the consumption of electricity by Scandinavian countries pales. On yearly basis bitcoin mining uses as much electricity as Denmark and Finland put together. And what is the whole bitcoin or other cryptocurrency craze needed for? Nothing. The whole concept is needed for nothing.

China banned bitcoin mining a couple of years back. While I disagree with many of the decisions made by the authoritarian state, I wish that the ban would be made global – it could become a UN resolution, I cannot see that any nation claiming to combat climate change could be against banning this completely unnecessary major electricity use.

What happened when China banned bitcoin mining? Much of the mining went to Kazakhstan, which is very rich in gas and oil resources. Consequently, the huge electricity use of bitcoin mining there has completely been generated with fossil fuels. Not surprisingly, the Chinese ban increased the gas and oil use in Kazakhstan by up to 20 %. It was a major reason for the increases of fuel prices which were the final straw causing the recent civil unrest in the authoritarian, corrupted country of Kazakhstan.

So, in addition to causing climate change, bitcoin mining has contributed to the more than 150 deaths so far caused by the civil unrest. Because the whole cryptocurrency concept is completely unnecessary and speculative, world action could easily be taken to abolish this source of fossil fuel consumption. The smartphone and computer world uses enough electricity even without harmful parasites such as cryptocurrencies.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: cryptocurrency, fossil fuels, electricity consumption, Kazakhstan