Biofuel from wood - is it climate-friendly?

Sunnuntai 14.10.2018 klo 15:21 - Mikko Nikinmaa

To be climate-friendly, the production of biofuels from wood should be associated with an increase of forest growth, which covers both the burned wood, and the carbon dioxide production during harvesting the material and transporting it to the biofuel factories and transporting the ready fuel to the fuel stations. If this requirement is not fulfilled, and new cuts done to obtain biofuel, then the new carbon dioxide produced is no better climatewise than carbon dioxide produced from oil and coal.

Climate-friendly biofuel can be produced from waste material, if new forest is planted at the same time. Then one increases the carbon sink, and simultaneously does environment-friendly treatment of waste.

I cannot understand, why production of biofuels without the above requirements is marketed as climate action, because it is definitely not that. To market something on grounds that is good for certain economic sectors and political parties, but against the most crucial requirements needed to have a sustainable world future, is something that our children do not thank us for, because we would have a choice. It would probably be against the interests of some groups, and probably more expensive than the cheapest choices, but it would in any case be a choice that we can decide on. Our children and grandchildren do not have the choice, but have to accept the situation we have generated through our choices.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, energy production, fossil fuels, bioenergy

Solutions to plastics problem - 1 & 2

Sunnuntai 16.9.2018 klo 11:18 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Anything done to the plastics is better than that they litter the environment, so the primary problem is their presently poor collection especially in some countries. That could be very easily solved by giving a small token for any plastic taken to waste collecting units. If they don't exist, their generation could be a primary target of developmental aid. The collected plastic could then be used:

1. Plastics use for energy production. Since plastics are made of oil, they could be used for producing energy instead usiage of oil. In the simplest case, this would just mean burning plastic waste to produce energy for heating instead of burning oil. In a more advanced case, plastic waste is processed so that its molecules can be used as part of car fuels. Such processing is already done by some oil refineries.

2. Use of plastics as part of road paving. If the durable waste plastic is ground, it can be mixed to asphalt and used for paving of roads. The asphalt containing plastic particles can be even more durable than asphalt without them.

Naturally these choices do not decrease the carbon dioxide formed by the use of fossil fuels or the formation of microplastic particles from the wear of asphalt or tyres, but it does not increase it either, since microplastic particles are similarly produced from asphalt without added waste plastics. These problems will be resolved only after complete stop of fossil fuel use for energy production and replacement of asphalt in road paving.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: plastic pollution, road paving, energy production

Enemy of the people

Maanantai 6.8.2018 klo 12:20 - Mikko Nikinmaa

President Trump is calling liberal media enemies of the people. At the same time the Trump government is scrapping the agreements that have been made to limit the production of toxic effluents and greenhouse gases. This happens at a time that the effects of greenhouse gas emissions are clearly seen in Northern Hemisphere. Although individual weather events cannot be associated with climate change, this time the accumulation of different phenomena has occurred in so many different places that there can only be one conclusion: enemies of the people are not the ones that report what is happening but the ones, who decide to neglect all the warning signals, and remove or weaken the emission standards as well as promote the use of fossil fuels.

The Californian wildfires are to some degree worsened by the extreme heat and drought - several people have already died. Extreme heat has been the plague of people in Europe, China, South Korea, Japan, parts of North America and parts of North Africa - altogether one can estimate that there have been several hundred heat-related deaths across the world. This is the first time ever that extreme heat has occurred simultaneously in all the continents of the Northern Hemisphere. Storms and heavy rains have already killed hundreds of people, and droughts in other places similarly. 

Thoughts and prayers are offered to the mourners of the victims of weather-related deaths by the government, which acts in many ways to worsen them. While other governments could also be doing much more than they are, at least they are not saying that the whole climate change is "fake news".

Isn't the enemy of the people the government that neglects the evidence that is seen by everyone except them and acts in ways that may worsen the situation causing human deaths.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, energy production, Paris climate agreement

Can we get rid of plastics - or is it really needed?

Lauantai 20.1.2018 klo 13:08 - Mikko Nikinmaa

When I was a child there was practically no plastic material. Fruit and other foods were placed in paper bags. Water was carried in metal buckets. Now everything is put is plastics - all the clothes are in plastic covers, candies are first in plastic bags and then in individual plastic covers. It can actually be said that we have moved from iron age to plastic age. Plastics are oil-based, cheap, light and durable materials. Further, they are good insulating material. Therefore, when I look around, covers of computers, printers, TVs, phones etc. are made of plastics. The same is true of wastewater pipes. For this reason, replacing plastics in manufacturing is very challenging. Or is it really needed?

The real problem with plastic waste is the material that is thrown in the environment. That is the material generating the big marine garbage gyres. Most of their material is plastic waste thrown to the environment. It is funny that people picknicking in parks do not collect their plastic cups, plates and utensils and put them in garbage bins. If that were always done - all the plastic wastes placed in the collected carbage, there would not be any garbage gyres, and the sea and the coasts would be beautiful and trash-free. I have sometimes wondered if people, who throw the wastes around in the environmentIMG_20170727_0010.jpg do that also in their homes.

So what to do with the plastics? The first thing is that they have to be collected. Thereafter much could be recycled, used for new plastic products. Currently only a few percent of plastics are recycled largely because recycling containers are quite rare. If societies really want to solve the plastics pollution problem, the collection of plastics must be improved - the percentage of plastics that is recycled  could easily be increased to over 50%. For the rest, energy use is probably the best. Since plastics are made of oil, burning them for heat production of towns instead of oil, which continues to be used for a long period of time, would be advisable. Instead of burning oil, one could first carry shoppings home in a plastic bag, thereafter use the bag in collecting trash, whereafter it would be burned. Since the same material would be used for several times, the carbon dioxide footprint of the bag would become smaller. This is more or less the same as instead of using wood to produce energy, it is used to produce paper for a newspaper which is afterwards burned in a fireplace.

If plastics were either recycled or burned for energy production, most of plastic pollution would disappear. The remaining problem would be microplastics. Much of it, which is caused by the slow breakdown of big plastic materials to microplastics as a result of mechanic tear, solar radiation and oxygen, would disappear with the collection of plastics. The remaining sources are plastic microbeads of cleaning liquids, tooth pastes and cosmetics, the small fibres given up whe washing clothing containing synthetic materials, and the dust from tyres, paved roads, artificial turfs etc. The first of these could be avoided already today, since there are more and more products, which do not contain plastic microbeads. The choice is the consumer's: he/she only needs to read the contents or ask the shop assistant, and buy products without plastic beads - if products with plastic beads were left unsold, the manufacturer would soon change their contents.The fibres from washing clothes containing synthetic materials is a more difficult problem, as most pieces of clothing have some synthetic fibres. Fleece clothing has recently gained a lot of attention, but actually most shirts, trousers, Goretex clothing, other outdoor apparel  etc. contain synthetic material, and are thus a source of microplastics. The problem with replacing clothing with synthetic materials by cotton actually causes as big environmental (and social) problems as it solves. Water and pesticide  use of cotton production is unacceptable. Further, the use of child labour in different stages of making cotton clothing is also unacceptable. The third major source of microplastics: the tear of tyres, dust from roads, and dust from artificial turfs is probably quantitatively the most important. There are no easy ways to decrease the amount released from traffic, unless people give up cars, and use rail traffic instead.

Thus, I think that the use of plastics can continue, if measures are taken not to allow the release of plastics to the environment. For a large part this can already be done, but requires actions both from the consumers and the society.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: garbage gyres, microplastics, climate change, energy production, marine pollution

G20 and climate change

Lauantai 8.7.2017 klo 9:28 - Mikko Nikinmaa

In the G20 meeting, it is 19-1 for climate change actions. Only Trump is still against. I am not saying my opinion of the person, but the denial is irresponsible. Even if climate change were for a large part a natural phenomenon, as climate sceptics maintain, one cannot deny that human actions contribute. This being the case, man should take any action possible to reduce human effects.

And there are clearly effects seen. There are already climate refugees in the USA. Places where people lived in Mississippi river delta in Louisiana are now under water. Clearly Trump government doesn't care that people in his own country have had to move. Also, one just heard the news that a huge iceberg may be loosening from Antarctica - the size is 7 x the area of New York. Further, temperature records have been broken - there have been three consecutive days with over +50 degrees Celcius in Iran. Unnatural weather: winds, floods, cold spells, heat waves occur very frequently all over the world.

Aren't these indications enough to show that something has to be done?

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate refugees, temperature increase, energy production

Solar power cheaper than coal

Maanantai 3.7.2017 klo 10:25 - Mikko Nikinmaa

It has now happened. Solar energy has become cheaper than coal - at least for places where old coal power plants do not exist. The decrease in relative price of energy produced using renewable sources has surprised everyone. One needs to go back only 20 years, when "energy experts" said that renewable energy (referring mainly to solar and wind energy) will always be so expensive that its commercial use will not be feasible without marked financial state support.

The fact that solar energy has now become quite cheap has important ramifications. For example, oil and gas prices cannot increase markedly, since one is always able to use alternative energy sources instead, if the price is too high. Nuclear energy with its huge building costs is not an attractive alternative. And imagine if even a half of the 10 billion € now needed to build a nuclear power plant would be used to research on how to store energy, which is the major problem with solar power.

Yes, storing energy so that the solar energy would be usable in the dark times is still not solved satisfactorily. Plants do it, and the energy stored is the basis of fossil fuels. This actually shows that energy storage is a solvable problem. And if even a half of funds needed to build a nuclear power plant were directed to this type of applied research, the result would likely to enable us to produce cheap, clean energy, which is usable overnight - for the benefit of mankind.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, energy production, fossil fuels. carbon dioxide footprint

Are there no environmental effects associated with coal burning?

Lauantai 18.2.2017 klo 15:49 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Industrialization started with the use of coal. Immense amount of energy could be obtained for industry and housing by burning coal. However, already in the early 20th century its clear negetive effects were seen. We all know London fogs - they were mostly caused by coal burning to heat housing. They have virtually disappeared now that coal use has diminished. Another clear effect was the so called industrial melanism. Certain butterflies became darker, because all the surfaces in industrialized areas had dark coal dust. The change was hereditary indicating rapid evolution. Now that coal dust accumulates less on surfaces in the British Isles, also the colour of butterflies has become lightier agan. In China it is estimated that the coal dust in the cities makes up to millions of respiratory diseases more serious.

Against this background it is incredible that the new US administration has now decided to abolish restrictions of allowing coal-associated wastewater to enter streams and lakes. It is equally scary that very strong support for both Brexit and Trump's presidency was obtained from people, who imagined that coal-mining and coal-based industries could be brought back, even though that is definitely not possible. Instead of trying to go back to the past, one would need to find new solutions, and generate new coal-independent livelihoods. It is equally incredible that the head of US Environmental Protection Agency is a person, whose major goal earlier has been to close the agency.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: fossil fuels, energy production, air pollution, water pollution

China - a leader in actions against climate change

Perjantai 20.1.2017 klo 10:53 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The government of China has really woken up to the problems caused by burning fossil fuels, especially coal, to obtain energy: air quality in Chinese cities needs to be improved and  carbon dioxide emissions curbed. To accomplish this China just announced that more than 100 coal power plants planned or already under construction will not be built. The amount of energy that the discontinued power plants , which were already under construction, would have produced yearly is about the same as that used by Germany.

This happens at the same time as the new American goverment with many members downplaying the environmental effects of fossil fuel use is starting its term. So, it really seems that the sun is rising from the east, and the far west, USA, is really experiencing sunset.

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