Solutions for the Energy Crises in this Union
Part 1: Alternate Energy and Conservation
Mike Angelo -- 3 February 2006 (C) -- Page 1
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.
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