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

Plastics - use as fuel component

Tiistai 24.7.2018 klo 19:57 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Plastics are made of oil. Thus, they could be utilized as components of fuel instead of generating massive garbage gyres in the oceans. And let's face it -since getting rid of the use of fossil fuels takes time, plastics should be used in energy production rather than just be destroyed by burning (without using the energy generated) which increases our carbon dioxide production.

This simple conclusion has now been advocated by the Finnish national oil company Neste. The company will start collecting plastic, and break it down to fuel components. The aim is to have 10-20 % of all petrol made of plastic garbage. This will mean savings in oil import, reduction in carbon dioxide generation and decrease in plastic garbage.

Although the solution does not make us fossil energy-free, it is a step in right direction. And at the present state of affairs anything done in right direction should be done as soon as possible, because it is getting hot in here, and a dop in the ocean must be done in the middle of plastic trash

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: fossil fuels, plastic pollution, recycling

A greenhouse gas measurement system of NASA discontinued by US government

Lauantai 12.5.2018 klo 18:05

After the Trump government left the Paris climate accord, many things of the government have focussed on being against environmentalism. The chief of Environmental Protection Agency is very much against environmental protection, protection of freshwater systems against coal and other mining wastewaters was scrapped etc. Against this background it is not surprising that the funding of a carbon dioxide and methane measurement system of NASA was discontinued, as reported in Science (May 11). The surveillance has been important for monitoring, if the climate accord is being followed. The system may not be important for the present US government, but is recognized to be important by the rest of the world. Consequently, European countries have already developed a monitoring system to replace the American one. Consequently, the slogan "America first" is also in this case becoming "America alone". The rest of the world is moving forward without Trump's USA.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuels

Less flying - for the sake of the environment

Lauantai 10.2.2018 klo 18:18 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Flying has changed from being very exclusive way of transport for the rich to quite cheap means of everybody's transport. Presently, flying can be cheaper than taking the train. Tourism industry depends on for the common man IMG_20170807_0015_NEW.jpgto be able to reach the destination by flying. Also, fresh fruit, fish and other perishable items and other kinds of freight are transported, e.g. from East Asia to Europe.

Surprisingly seldom the use of fossil fuels in flying is brought forward as a problem. Scientists concerned of climate change fly from Helsinki to Melbourne etc. However, as a result of the hugely increased air traffic and the lack of alternatives to the use of petrol, flying is increasingly becoming a significant source of air pollution. Further, the air fields take up a lot of space, which could otherwise be used for example for food production. It is also a problem that people speaking about our need to combat climate change are themselves not really taking action against it by avoiding flying. 

So, what to do? I think that instead of trying to increase the speed of getting from one place to the other, one should accept somewhat slower transport. New generations of zeppelins could do that between continents. The picture of an exploding and burning zeppelin has been imprinted in everybody's mind, but that could not happen these days, since inert gases like helium would be used in the balloons of the zeppelins - the balloons of children do not have hydrogen any more because of its explosiveness. If zeppelins instead of present-day planes were increasingly used, the air fields would need much less land area than presently. Within continents, high-speed electric trains could be used. If electricity were generated mainly in power plants not using fossil fuels, the transport now generating a lot of carbon dioxide would be virtually carbon-neutral. Two things should, in addition, be done. First, one should decrease the number of meetings requiring everyone's presence, and use video meetings instead. Second, instead of flying perishable goods all over the world, we could use local foods only (as long as they are produced in a manner not causing large carbon dioxide loads).  

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: air pollution, climate change, fossil fuels

Energy Production and Transfer

Tiistai 28.11.2017 klo 19:55 - Mikko Nikinmaa

The energy and heat production have traditionally been done in large units, which have also been responsible for electricity and energy transport. Because of the centralized system, it has been possible to build power plants for billions of euros/dollars. While the electricity transport system should be minimally nationwide or continentwide and owned, e.g., by European Union, the actual production should and could increasingly be done in small units. I discuss first the transport, which should, in my opinion, be free of private profit making, and then energy production and distribution, where the state-owned transport units could be used by different-sized companies.

The transport of electricity and heat should be carried out by nations or even bigger units. It should not be done by private companies. A good analogy is road system. In most European countries road system is nation-owned. This makes it impossible for private companies to make large profits, and the same should be true for electricity. The biggest injustice that has been experienced by Finnish consumers is that they largely must pay to a foreign company for electricity transport. This company makes big profits throughout the year, and whereas one is able to have different companies to compete for the price of electricity, one cannot have competition on the price of electricity transfer. Adding to the injustice is that one has to pay fixed price for the transfer regardless if one uses one unit or a 1000 units of electricity. If one uses little electricity, one may pay 90 % or more in transport of alectricity and less than 10 % in the actual electricity. Needless to say that the private company pays hardly any tax to Finland.Interestingly, the transport of electricity in Finland was state responsibility, until it was privatized, and sold abroad. The question is why? As an exact analogy, the roads shoud then also be.

If the energy and heat transport were state owned, the companies could buy and sell energy from small units. Again an analogy to roads, different sizes of transport companies are using the state-owned roads. The same could be done with energy transport. The energy companies would make their profits from selling and buying the product. This way all the excess heat generated in different factories, individual solar panels etc. would come to maximal use. With the present-day digital systems, it would generate no problem to be able to do this.

The state-owned transport system, and private companies doing the buying and selling the energy could generate much more effective system than we have presently, with the net result that the waste would decrease, and one could be diminishing the use of fossil fuels more rapidly than with the present system.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: fossil fuels, climate change, wind power, solar power

Environmental Hypocricy

Sunnuntai 15.10.2017 klo 17:39 - Mikko Nikinmaa

A very important export sector of Finland has been and is forestry. Norway has become rich on its oil. Both countries are now saying that they are in the forefront in combatting climate change. In many ways they are, but there is also some hypocricy associated with the claims and actions of both Finnish and Norwegian governments.

Let's start with Norway. Much of its present wealth is based of selling oil, which it is also presently selling as much as it can. Also, exploration of new oil fields in vulnerable arctic areas is done with quite high priority. So getting - and remaining - rich by selling a major cause of climate change is OK, and with the profits obtained one can have massive domestic tax  support for electric cars, so that the emissions of carbon dioxide from Norway decrease. Isn't this somewhat hypocritical - getting funds from fossil fuel sales to support reductions in domestic use of fossil fuels?

Then to Finland.It would actually be possible to separate the forest growth, which is estimated quite reliably, and which forms a carbon dioxide sink, from the cutting of forests. The use of wood for different purposes can also be estimated fairly accurately from year to year. If and when the wood is used for energy production, it produces carbon dioxide just as coal or oil. By separating forest growth, carbon dioxide sink, from forest use, carbon dioxide producer, one could actually have a good handle of net forestry effects on climate change. It could also direct the wood production towards products with longer life length than presently, because in such a way the amount of carbon dioxide per time would be reduced. Instead of going towards this direction, the government of Finland is saying that forestry is sustainable and Finland should be allowed to increase its allowed cutting, since forestry in Finland is at least carbon dioxide neutral, without having to decrease carbon dioxide production elsewhere. Isn't this hypocritical, since wood cutting is necessarily associated with increased carbon dioxide production?

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuels, oil

Harvey and other storms

Perjantai 1.9.2017 klo 17:57 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Harvey hurricane caused huge damage in Texas, hundreds or maybe even thousands of people are missing or dead after heavy rains in Mumbai, tropical storms are causing havoc in China, Japan and Philippines. Thunderstorms and heavy rain are causing serious problems in many parts of Europe. One cannot open a newspaper today without finding an item related to incidents related to bad weather. And still some people deny the existence of climate change. It is ironic that the president of USA goes to Texas and says that he will do everything in his power to resolve the problem. Yet, the same person says that the root of the problem does not exist - it is just a hoax invented by the Chinese. How many natural disasters are needed, before the hard line climate change deniers will actually start considering that man would have to do something. It is not the case of economy and environmental thinking being opposites any more, economy for tomorrow has to take the environment into account, or there won't be tomorrow's economy. The huge number of unusual weather events across the world gives us a very strong warning sign. Everyone should do what they can...

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuels, temperature

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

Incredible - Trump administration pulling out of the Paris Climate Treaty

Keskiviikko 31.5.2017 klo 20:33

Among the incredible things that the Trump administration has done probably the most amazing is that the administration is pullin out of the Paris Climate Treaty. It is amazing, because the future commercial profits will be made in clean tech and other environmentally friendly commercian solutions. While Trump talks about clean coal, even India, which has been very conservative in solutions of energy production, has decided to cancel building fourteen new coal power plants, because energy produced using solar panels is not only cleaner but also cheaper than coal energy. I wonder where Trump government is planning to sell the clean coal and any coal-related energy solutions, since no-one in the world is buying them?

Note that I have been saying Trump government and not USA throughout. It is because it seems that none of the forward-looking people and economic circles support the government in this silly out of 1960's decision. 

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

Climate of Hope

Tiistai 16.5.2017 klo 15:51 - Mikko Nikinmaa

I am just reading the book Climate of Hope by Michael Bloomberg and Carl Pope. In this age that we, on the one hand, have leaders like Trump and Putin, who live in 1960's and say that human actions have no effect on world climate, and actually advocate the increasing use of fossil fuels - like clean coal, and on the other hand, have pessimistic climate prophets stating that world's end is looming, it is refreshing  to read a book that is optimistic and tries to find solutions. It is naturally so that we first need the pessimistic prophets to wake us up, but if nothing further is given, people just get depressed and do nothing, since the world is ending soon anyway. But there is reason for optimism: so far all the environmental problems have been solved. The silent spring has never come, the acid rain and smogs in Europe and North America have stopped, and the ozone hole is filling up. Since there are solutions also for climate change, why not be optimistic. And further, the solutions are such that economic activity increases and jobs are generated. They will not be generated in coal mines, but in producing windmills, solar panels, wave energy power plants, batteries for electric cars etc. Trying to push jobs into coal plants does not function, because they cannot produce energy as economically as the renewable energy power plants. So, instead of thinking that nothing can be done any more, let's allow the sun to shine, and optimistically do our own climate actions where we can. The climate of hope - for a good tomorrow.

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

Climate change, and the effect of anthropogenic carbon dioxide, just imagination?

Lauantai 11.3.2017 klo 16:05 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Quite incredibly the US Environmental Protection chief Scott Pruitt said that anthropogenic carbon dioxide is not the primary reason behind climate change. The scientists in EPA are of opposite opinion - thus a politician can say how things are opposite to what scientiststs who have carried out careful research on the topic have given as the conclusion by EPA. This shows the views of the present US president and his government. Lets go back to the past when there was no EPA and the environment could be be polluted so that a burning river resulted in generation of EPA. Personally, I think that if there is even a possibility that human influence endangers our environment, for the sake of future generations we should carry out corrective actions as best we can.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: fossil fuels, carbon dioxide, anthropogenic effects

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

Sad days for the environment

Keskiviikko 14.12.2016 klo 7:26 - Mikko Nikinmaa

Recent days have been sad for the environment. I cannot see how America could be made great again by resorting to ways that were maybe useful 50 years ago. During those times the prosperity was achieved with fossil fuels but at the cost of air quality. During those days the smogs in American cities were almost like in big Chinese cities today. With all sorts of environmental requirements the situation has now been rectified. Also in China it has been seen that the present situation is intolerable. The conclusion there is that the use of fossil fuels has to be curbed, and new solutions for energy production be developed. Such attitude can develop future solutions, and was also the plan of the present US administration.

However, the new president-elect of USA has just a day or two ago said that nobody knows if climate change is occurring. As the primary figure for EPA he has chosen one of the most prominent climate sceptics of the US, and the secretary of state will be a director of an oil company. This is worrysome for the world, since put together they indicate that the US is not looking to the future, but trying to get the good old days back - including the prominent use of fossil fuels without restrictions. Making America great again (from outside it looks that it is great at present) would, in my opinion, mean that new solutions were developed. They would also be the major possibility for keeping work in America, since new innovations cannot be produced with limited schooling.

So the individual states in USA and the nations in the rest of the world need to look to the future. Regardless of what negative steps for Environment the new (hopefully 4-year) US government will take, the rest of us need to try to take care of the environment in the name of future generations.

Kommentoi kirjoitusta. Avainsanat: climate change, fossil fuels