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Additional notes on separate pages

  1. Hydrogen is often advocated as a means of storing and transporting energy.

    Swapping batteries at suitable stations might make electric cars tolerable even if they have to use quite bad batteries, e.g. lead acid.

  2. Generating electricity in space and transmitting it to earth by microwaves received by "rectennas" was a propsal of the 1970s.

Notes to Sustainability texts

Solar energy would also work.
The technological possibility of transmitting solar energy over long distances can be developed and would also guarantee the continuation of human progress. It is likely to be several times as expensive as present energy, but we can afford it if necessary.

Mollifying some environmentalists
It may indeed be possible to mollify some environmentalists by showing that some of the problems that worry them are unreal or are solvable. Others are in the tradition of fire and brimstone preachers and cannot be mollified.

The True State of the Planet is a collection of articles, and I agree with most of them. Here is its table of contents.

Prologue: Environmentalism for the Twenty-first Century
Ronald Bailey

1. Population, Food, and Income: Global Trends in the Twentieth Century
Nicholas Eberstadt

2. Saving the Planet with Pesticides: Increasing Food Supplies While Preserving the Earth's Biodiversity
Dennis Avery

3. Global Warming: Messy Models, Decent Data, and Pointless Policy
Robert C. Balling, Jr.

4. The Coming Age of Abundance
Stephen Moore

5. The Causes and Prevention of Cancer: The Role of Environment
Bruce N. Ames and Lois Swirsky Gold

6. Forests: Conflicting Signals
Roger A. Sedjo

7. Conserving Biodiversity: Resources for Our Future
Stephen R. Edwards

8. Water Options for the Blue Planet
Terry L. Anderson

9. Rescuing the Oceans
Kent Jeffreys

10. Richer Is Cleaner: Long-Term Trends in Global Air Quality
Indur M. Goklany

Epilogue: Reappraising Humanity's Challenges, Humanity's Opportunities
by Fred Smith

Benchmarks: The Ecological and Economic Trends That Are Shaping the Natural Environment and Human Societies Appendix: Limits of Statistical Certainty -The Case of Population, Food, and Income
Nicholas Eberstadt

Agricultural water
Agricultural waterremains a local problem, more severe in some localities than others, because it is used in such large quantities that it is expensive to transport.

Here's the text of the tractor advertisement from the 1921 Successful Farming. Here again is the advertisement itself

``Keep The Boy In School

The pressure of urgent spring work is often the cause of keeping the boy out of school for several months. It may seem necessary - but it isn't fair to the boy! You are placing a life handicap in his path if you deprive him of education. In this age, education is becoming more and more essential for success and prestige in all walks of life, including farming.

Should you feel that your own education was neg- lected, through no fault of yours, then you naturally will want your children to enjoy the benefits of a real education - to have some things you may have missed.

With the help of a Case Kerosene Tractor it is possible for one man to do more work in a given time, than a good man and an industrious boy, together, working with horses. By investing in a Case Tractor and Oxxx Detour Plow and Harrow outfit now, your boy can get his schooling without interruption, and the Spring work will not suffer by his absence.

Keep the boy in school - and let a Case Kerosene Tractor take his place in the field. You'll never regret either investment.''

I'm not sure I transcribed all that corrrectly.

[Note on Population] Even without population increase, the world may seem increasingly crowded. For example, if the world reaches the standard of living of the West even at the present world population, there is no way that universal access to Yosemite Valley, the Louvre or any other unique place can be maintained. These will have to be rationed or priced high enough so that the number of people who can afford them corresponds to the number who can be accomodated.

(3) Note on Life expectancy: The less developed countries in 1995 are almost to where the developed countries were in the early 1950s. According to your disposition, you may take this as good news or as bad news.

We have the table:

Life expectancy
Year World Developed regions Less dev. regions
1950/55 46.1 66.0 40.7
1970/75 57.9 71.7 54.5
1980/85 61.4 72.7 58.6
1990/95 64.7 74.0 62.4
Source: United Nations, World Population Prospects: The 1994 Revision - cited in The True State of The Planet

(5) Moore's paper has been ferociously attacked, but some of these attacks ascribe bad motives to him based on his being a Senior Fellow of the Hoover Institution. The link I had to such an attack has disappeared.

(6)Sometimes conservation measures may actually increase the expenditure of energy according to two articles by Herbert Inhaber by making energy cheaper. This doesn't bother me at all, but it probably bothers people putting a high priority on minimizing the use of energy.

There is some evidence that humans are most comfortable when the radiation temperature is higher than the air temperature. That is part of the reason why people like cool sunny days and like sitting in front of a fire. If homes were to be built with separate control of air temperature and (say) wall temperature, they might be very comfortable, but they would use quite a bit of energy in maintaining the temperature difference. Assuming energy were sold at is real cost, this would be a reasonable use of energy. I make this remark in order to make no concession to what I consider the "energy religion".

On page 404 of The Mosaic of Economic Growth, the chemical engineer Ralph Landau says that until WWII, Europe used coal as its main chemical feedstock.

(8) Gasoline has a density of 0.75 (water being 1.0) and liquid hydrogen has a density of 0.07. On the other hand, hydrogen provides three times the energy per pound of gasoline. The question is whether the lower weight makes up for the greater bulk. I was informed that it does, but I would like to have a reference that would permit me to replace this remark by something more definite.

(9) Thanks to Romana Machado for digging up the references to the cost of the Owens Valley Project in relation to the GDP of Los Angeles.

A recent study by the International Institute of Applied Systems Analysis in Vienna by Arnulf Gruebler gave some scenarios for future energy use. Unfortunately, the summary I have of it doesn't give the actual title. Here are some highlights.

  1. The world is not running out of energy.

  2. The six scenarios are A1: Ample oil and gas, A2: Return to coal, A3: Fossils phaseout, B: Middle Course, C1: New renewables with nuclear phaseout, C2: Renewables and new nuclear.

  3. They assume world population will double by the middle of the next century and expect a 1.5 to 3-fold increase in primary energy use by 2050 and a 2 to 5-fold increase by 2100. [My opinion is that the wide variations in the estimates given partly reflect pressures on IIASA from the greens on one side and technologists on the other.]

  4. They expect efficiencies to improve and energy use per per capita GDP to decline.

  5. "A conclusion that is consistent over all six scenarios is that the capital requirements of the energy sector will be extremely large but not infeasible. Over the next three decades, capital requirements of the energy sector across the scenarios are estimated to range between US$13 trillion and $20 trillion at 1990 prices. The latter amount equals the total 1990 global economic output." They say this will be hard but possible for the former communist countries and the developing countries.

  6. They expect decarbonization to improve the environment.

A note from a rank-and-file tribesman
I looked at you pro-nuclear web page and it is the same old "too cheap to meter" BS I have been reading for decades.

The source of my info? Common sense, intuition, intellect, compassion, wisdom, hope, namelessness, attraction, love....

Sustainable yields, full employment productivity and social justice are possible in a solar indstrialized world. In you world is pain, deprivation, brainless competition, professional football. poverty, cigarettes, plastic shopping bags, SUVs, addictions. neckties, pantyhose, Ayn Rand... A kind of cheap excitement, but meaningless in the long term...

Notice how expressions of opinion, values and taste are all mixed together. Alas, large mixtures like this are not confined to the environmentalist left. I doubt that he had read any "too cheap to meter" BS in the last 40 years. The phrase was from Admiral Lewis Strauss in an after-dinner speech in 1955, and no utility not wanting a prompt cut in its rates ever said anything like that. The phrase is an anti-nuclear staple.

Anti-American ideology

I have been challenged on whether there is such a thing as anti-Americanism. Paul Hollander wrote a book about it, and here's an excerpt from the introduction.

Even at this early stage readers may wish to know how I managed to separate the just critiques from the unfair ones and how I avoided designating all critiques of American society as anti-American? Although this matter too will be discussed at some length in the book, I should make clear at the outset that I did not equate all criticisms of this country with hostility toward the United States nor did I intend to discredit or dismiss all critiques of the United States with the term "anti-Americanism". Rather, that term has been employed to denote a particular mindset, an attitude of distaste, aversion, or intense hostility the roots of which may be found in matters unrelated to the actual qualities or attributes of American society or the foreign policies of the United States. In short, as here used, anti-Americanism refers to a negative predisposition, a type of bias which is to varying degrees unfounded. I regard it as an attitude similar to its far more thoroughly explored counterparts, hostile predispositions such as racism, sexism, or antisemitism.

A preliminary example of these attitudes should make clear what type of utterances I am ready to label as "anti-American" (or "intensely alienated" as far as the domestic variant of these attitudes is concerned). An American reader of the radical-left publication the _Guardian_ wrote in the aftermath of the war with Iraq:

It is depressing that segments of the "left" in this country have been using the flag in antiwar endeavours to demonstrate that they too are patriotic. Steven Miller's letter exemplifies this approach. ... Which aspect of our "national identity" is it that Miller likes so much? Is it the genocide of the native peoples and the theft of their land? Or is it slavery and the slaughter of millions of Africans and the continued mutilation and attempted destruction of Black people? ... perhaps it is the "the war on drugs" that so enthralls those who like the flag. Or how we stole part of Mexico; our bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki ... Or perhaps it was ... US. support for South Africa and Israel, and the continuing colonization of Puerto Rico ... the refusal to launch a meaningful campaign against AIDS ... the denial of reproductive rights for women and the destruction of the world's environment.

The flag is not mine. The "national identity" of this country is one of continued and unparalleled destruction, the likes of which have never been seen anywhere in history. Just imagine that one day the left is victorious. Is it the U.S. flag that we will then hoist? Let's hope not. The U.S. flag is the symbol of the evil empire. Progressive people should reject it.

- Paul Hollander, _Anti-Americanism_ p. viii


To make a point, I sometimes write something not intended to be taken seriously. I think most readers get the point and wouldn't like to have everything made totally explicit. Two items have been taken literally by a few people. One took a remark as a serious proposal, missing the implicit meaning of "fierce" and attacked in a slew of email. That's not as bad as if he had interpreted it literally and agreed with it. I guess one always needs to provide for literal minded fools. Fortunately, the web allows this to be done after the fact. My Letter to Christian Physicists also came to require a statement that the tract was not intended literally. I didn't mind ignoring the flak from the people who denounced me as a religious fanatic. However, that some people agreed with the "letter" necessitated the disclaimer. I feared starting yet another cult. I suppose I'd better also say that the "quotation" from Newton is a fake and in opposition to his actual statement that he did not make hypotheses.

An extreme optimist is a person who believes his country will probably survive even if it doesn't take his advice.

Unimaginably far in the future
Curiously, it seems we can give "unimaginably far in the future" a reasonably precise meaning. Ten thousand years is unimaginably far in the future in terms of human society, because it is hard to think of anything to say about human society ten thousand years from now distinct from what can be said about human society one thousand years from now.

On the other hand, we can definitely distinguish one thousand years in the human future from one hundred years. In 100 years, the world is unlikely to reach full equality in prosperity, there is unlikely to be a significant fraction of the human population living off the earth, population may not have completely stabilized, and boredom with prosperity is still unlikely to be a major human motivation. Several of these events are likely in a thousand years.

Of course, geological processes can be predicted for longer times, but I don't think human history will be much affected by them, because there will be time and technology to adapt to them or to modify them if necessary. (Yes, even plate tectonics can be modified - though only over a long time as far as I can see.)

Note from Bernard Cohen on nuclear power costs - November 2001

Present prices [of raw uranium] are at an all time low, less than $10 per pound. The reason is that some very rich uranium deposits have now been found in Canada, like 3% ore vs 0.2 % which is the richest U.S. ore. Australia is also producing low cost uranium. If you mean at costs less than $50 per pound, which is the historic high (adjusted for inflation), it is probably safe to say there is enough for at least 100 years. The problem is that no one has been interested in this question for about 30 years since so much uranium is available. Decommissioning nuclear weapons and use of their plutonium as well as highly enriched uranium is also a complication. Also, the number of reactors to be expected is quite uncertain.

Fueling a reactor for one year requires about 350,000 lb of raw uranium to produce about 1,000,000 KW of electricity for about 7500 hours. At $10 per pound, this is $3.5 E6 / 7.5 E9 KW-h, or 0.04 cents per KW-h. The latest figures I have handy (1987) for costs of present plants in cents per KW-h are (costs for reactors that could be built now in parentheses):
costs for nuclear reactors
operation and maintenance 1.3 (0.9)
Fuel (ready to install) 0.72 (0.64)
Decomissioning fund 0.05 (0.05)
Capital 5.6 (2.2)

Extra Notes - These are not (yet) integrated into the main topics of these pages but are facts collected from various sources.

From Discover, 1996 August, "Reinventing the Wheel" by Will Hively about the work of Jack Bitterly. Bitterly experiments with flywheels for cars. carbon fiber, 100,000 rpm, 50 lb wheel in 90 lb unit. Wheel spins in vacuum on magnetic bearings. The article said a prototype car was promised by the end of 1996, but it is now the middle of 1998. I'm skeptical about flywheel energy storage.

The number of hits on this page since 1995 October 29th.