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FOREST INK: Looking at green energy options

Phasing out fossil fuels is a complicated process
Jim Hilton pens a column on forestry each week for the Williams Lake Tribune.

My daughter and her family got a new all-electric car last week which can get over 400 km in a single charge which is a big improvement over their previous electric car.

They have been waiting for close to two years for this top-end Volkswagen sedan which also comes with free charging for three years. While some notable improvements have been made in cars and even pick up trucks it will likely be some time before agriculture, mining and the forest industry will see many all electric vehicles and equipment. Fossil fuels for industrial uses could be replaced by hydrogen and ammonia if a green economical method is found to produce these two energy sources.

Phasing out fossil fuels is a complicated process with global consequences and requires all countries to cooperate with developed countries taking the lead. I just finished a good book published in 2008 entitled Hot, Flat, and Crowded by Thomas Friedman who looks at some options for phasing out fossil fuels to deal with climate changes.

The hot part of the title deals with the increasing temperature which is implicated in the extreme weather events that are taking place. Crowded refers to the expected world population to be nine billion by 2050 and flat is the levelling of the economic playing field to allow more people than ever to enter the middle class. He makes the case that in a country like China this will have a major impact on the world’s energy demand because this group of people have the buying potential and want the same things that the developed world have.

If they end up having a heavy carbon foot print like the developed countries (especially the USA) this segment of the population could off set any gains in fossil fuel savings in many other countries. Mr. Friedman lists a number of ways that the green electrons can be attained. He suggests that no one item will be the magic bullet but that a combination of at least eight would be the best choice. He lists things like developing more fuel efficient vehicles, gas and coal powered plants, adding more solar and wind systems, conservative tillage systems in agriculture, converting coal-powered plants to gas, increasing gas tax to discourage non-essential driving and double nuclear power. He proposes that the best thing the developed countries can do (especially Americans) is to develop the most promising of the green electron systems and demonstrate the use of these choices in their countries.

Many developed country citizens that want to maintain the status quo (continued use of fossil fuels at high levels ) say it is no use since China’s fast growing middle class will quickly use up any modest gains in alternate sources of energy.

While that is true to some extent he also gives some examples that show the Chinese government is aware of their problem and has made some changes that show they are serious and have demonstrated that they can make many significant changes that many developed countries have been very slow at. Another good book is The Carbon War by Jeremy Leggett who worked with the oil industry a number of years looking for new deposits until he became concerned about the impacts of oil use on global warming and worked with Green Peace for the remainder of his career.

A third source is the use of nuclear energy in a YouTube video “The Truth About Nuclear Energy” with Anthony Jared who is a 30-year Navy veteran and has operated nuclear reactors on both nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. He has an interesting perspective on the truth about nuclear energy, the safety concerns and why there has been such a prolific anti-nuclear movement. I will discuss this interview in more detail with a future article.

Read More: FOREST INK: The CORE process, did it work?

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