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3 February, 2006
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MozillaQuest Magazine Technology

Solutions for the Energy Crises in this Union

Part 1: Alternate Energy and Conservation

If implemented immediately and expedited with high priority, most of the energy solutions suggested here today taken together could have us out of crisis stage within a year.

Mike Angelo -- 3 February 2006 (C) -- Page 1

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Editor's Note: This article is entirely too long. So, we broke it down into a two-part series. You should read both parts in order to get the full flavor or our suggestions for solving America's energy crises.

Please check the Article Index below to see how the parts are laid out and what is covered in each part. Links will be activated as each part is published. Ed.

Article Index

[Part 1, Alternate Energy and Conservation]

[Part 2, Computer and Internet Technology]

  • USB-Key Sneaker-Net
  • Computer in a Pocket -- a Portable Office
  • Internet Telecommuting
  • Some practical anecdotes
  • Conclusion
To learn why Linux is so much a better choice than is Microsoft Windows, please see our article Gaël Duval Tells Why Mandrake Linux Is Better Than MS Windows

Office on the Linux Desktop

OpenOffice 1.1 -- A Complete Office/Productivity Software Suite for GNU-Linux, FreeBSD, MAC, MS-Windows, Unix, and more

America needs to solve its energy crises now! The most immediate, main problem centers around oil/petroleum and our over-dependence on it.

Interestingly, most practical solutions to the energy crises are more in the nature of what these days is low technology or old technology, rather than the fancy high-tech stuff. That means the solutions are available now and the solutions are available without much further ado.

Moreover, it means the solutions can be implemented and should be implemented right now -- immediately. If implemented immediately and expedited with high priority, most of the energy solutions suggested here today taken together could have us out of crisis stage within a year. And we should be able to achieve complete energy independence within five to ten years.

The obvious solution is to cut down on our consumption of direct petroleum products such as gasoline, diesel fuel, and heating oil. There also are indirect uses of oil/petroleum such as electricity generated from the burning of oil/petroleum products and petroleum-based plastics.

Conservation

Part of cutting down on oil/petroleum consumption is just cutting back on how much gasoline we consume by cutting back on how much driving we do, or saving heating oil by setting our winter thermostats down a degree or too. In the summer we need to conserve electricity by setting our summer thermostats up a degree or two.

These conservation solutions are available right now. They do not require anything from what amounts to a dysfunctional federal government. And all of us can and should start implementing them now.

Another part of solving the energy crises is to find and use alternate energy sources. There are three clean, excellent, renewable, alternative energy sources that immediately come to mind, solar power, waterpower, and wind power.

Water, wind, and solar power are a much better alternative energy choice than nuclear energy for several reasons. One reason is there is no nuclear waste with which to contend.

Another reason is there is no danger of a nuclear disaster from water, wind, or solar power. And pocket-book wise, the actual energy source/fuel is free -- nuclear fuel is expensive. Please see Figure 1, below.

Get Power from Water, Wind, and Sun -- Not Oil!

About 14% of the United States' electricity is generated from petroleum-fired and natural gas-fired power plants. The immediate plan should be to replace the 14% or so of petroleum and natural-gas generated electricity with electricity generated from waterpower, solar power, and wind power. We will discuss that plan in an upcoming article in this series.

The solar power, waterpower, and wind power technology could stand some improvement. However, the technology for solar power, waterpower, and wind power is here now and there already is extensive generation of electricity from water, wind, and solar power now. Increased implementation of water, wind, and solar power for electricity generation should start immediately.

To the greatest extent possible, railroad engines should be powered by electricity generated from waterpower, solar power, and wind power. Moreover, we need to switch as much people and goods transportation as possible from road and air to rail.


Figure 1. Hydroelectric power productions costs are less than other types of electircity. Notice there is no fuel cost for hydroelectric power. (Source: The Foundation for Water and Energy Education. Link in Resources section on Page 2.)

Railroad technology is here now. Switching from air and road transportation as much as possible can and should start now. Moreover in many instances, it does not require anything from what amounts to a dysfunctional federal government.

It's your choice. Simply travel by train rather than air. Whenever possible take a train rather than drive. And if you own a business, ship by rail rather than air or truck whenever possible.

A side benefit of switching from road or air travel and transportation to rail travel and transportation is that doing that helps to relieve road traffic and air traffic congestion. The reduction in road traffic and air traffic congestion means less fuel wasted in traffic jams and bottlenecks.


Switch from Air and Road Transportation to Rail Transportation

"Friction is the force that opposes the relative motion or tendency of such motion of two surfaces in contact." Source: Friction, Wikipedia.

Coefficient of Friction: "The coefficient of friction (also known as the frictional coefficient or the friction coefficient) is a scalar value which describes the ratio of the force of friction between two bodies and the force pressing them together. The coefficient of friction depends on the materials used -- for example, ice on metal has a low coefficient of friction (they slide past each other easily), while rubber on pavement has a high coefficient of friction (they do not slide past each other easily)." Source: Friction, Wikipedia.

Executive Summary

There are many solutions to America's assorted energy crises. Many are old technology or low technology solutions. There are plenty of energy crisis solutions that are available for implementation and use now.

Alternative energy sources such as solar, water, and wind power can be employed to eliminate the need for oil/petroleum to generate electricity. Moreover there is no need to build additional nuclear power plants.

Moving the railroads to all-electric power can save much oil/petroleum fuel. And moving as much air and road transportation to rail transportation as possible also will save lots of oil/petroleum fuel.

These projects can be done with existing technologies. And these projects should be completed within a year if given adequate impetus, priorities, and resources to do the job.

Telecommuting is a great way to conserve oil/petroleum fuel consumption. The technologies for telecommuting are here now.

Yet undeveloped, extravagant, esoteric, high-tech energy solutions might be enticing and sound great. But alluding to them is just a way of putting off getting down to the serious business of solving America's energy crises and relaxing our dependence on oil/petroleum.

KISS and use the solutions that are available now. Then look for better and perhaps more high-tech energy solutions for the future. But use the energy solutions available now to get the job done now!

The most immediately effective solutions are in the conservation arenas. Heating and air conditioning conservation is as easy, simple, and quick as adjusting thermostat settings.

Implementing and expanding flextime programs can help to spread highway traffic flows across the day to reduce the bottleneck and traffic jam peaks. Spreading work hours over different times also can help to level out the traffic peaks that lead to traffic jams and bottlenecks too.

Additional highway lanes must be built to improve traffic flow. Unfortunately road-building energy conservation solutions will take time. Nevertheless, road-building energy conservation solutions must be started now.

There are several very good reasons for that switch to rail transportation. One is that, as suggested above, just about all rail transportation can be set to get its power from water, wind, and solar powered electrical generation. That would save considerable amounts of petroleum-based fuel consumption.

Another is the simple physics of friction. Rail travel is steel (wheels) on steel (rails). Steel on steel is comparatively low friction. That means that lots of the energy used to move rail traffic goes to moving trains rather than to fighting friction.

(Hard steel on hard steel has a kinetic coefficient of friction of 0.42. Source: Coefficient of Friction Values for Clean Surfaces.)

On the other hand, road traffic is rubber tires on cement or macadam roadways. The coefficient of friction for rubber on concrete or macadam is comparatively high. That means that lots of the energy used to move road traffic goes to fighting friction instead of moving cars, buses, and trucks.

(Rubber on dry asphalt has a kinetic coefficient of friction of 0.5 - 0.8. Rubber on dry concrete has a kinetic coefficient of friction of 0.6 - 0.85 Source: Coefficient of Friction Values for Clean Surfaces.)

Friction concerns are just one part of the comparison of road vehicle to railroad-train fuel-efficiency. In some cases, moving people by road might be more fuel-efficient than moving them by rail. For more about that check Train vs Auto Energy; Vehicle Resistance, by David S. Lawyer. (Link in Resources section at the end of this article.)

However, if all trains are made to run on electricity generated by solar, water, and wind power then road v. train fuel efficiency comparisons become irrelevant -- because trains will not use oil/petroleum for their power.

Maglev (magnetic levitation), electromagnetic suspension (EMS), electrodynamic suspension (EDS), and other such magnetic train technologies are pretty much friction free. However, we do not include Maglev, EMS, EDS, and other such magnetic train technologies today because they are developing technologies and not ripe for broad-based implementation at this time. Additionally, friction concerns become irrelevant, as trains no longer use oil/petroleum or oil-generated electricity for their power.

Electromagnetic suspension for trains is an important technology because it allows very high-speed trains. High-speed trains make railroad travel a very competitive alternate to road and air travel.

Two energy consumption problems that air travel provokes are drag (friction between the aircraft's skin and the air) and gravity. It takes a considerable amount of power to gain altitude (climb). And it also takes power to maintain aircraft altitude -- unless the aircraft is lighter-than-air such as a helium-filled blimp.

Road travel and air travel also waste lots of fuel in traffic jams and bottlenecks. All that time cars, buses, and trucks spend in bottlenecks and traffic jams is wasting tremendous amounts of fuel. It is wasting your valuable time too. And it is doing lots of unnecessary pollution also.

Don't forget our overcrowded skies. There is lots of fuel wasted and unnecessary air pollution due to jams and bottlenecks in the air traffic system too.

When aircraft are sitting around on the tarmac waiting for taxi and takeoff clearances or lined up bumper-to-bumper on the taxiways leading to runways, they are wasting lots of fuel. Likewise, when aircraft are in holding patterns waiting for landing clearances there is lots of fuel waste there too.

Considering all the fuel waste and air pollution due to road and air travel, it seems clear that there needs to be a major national effort to switch as much transportation of people and goods from road and air transportation to rail transportation. Additionally, there needs to be a major effort to design and schedule road traffic and air traffic flow so that jams and bottlenecks will be substantially reduced if not eliminated.

Article Index

[Part 1, Alternate Energy and Conservation]

[Part 2, Computer and Internet Technology]

  • USB-Key Sneaker-Net
  • Computer in a Pocket -- a Portable Office
  • Internet Telecommuting
  • Some practical anecdotes
  • Conclusion
  • Related Linux and Open Source Software Articles


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