The Way I See It

Introduction

We are astronauts on Spaceship Earth.

Our life-support system is based on solar-powered recycling – the Sun provides the energy to recycle and renew the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat, and everything we want or care about.

Our planet’s life support system is fundamental to everything we are and will ever be.  It is the foundation of all history, culture, art, science, religion, and even the very process of consciousness becoming.

If our human family doesn’t develop life support sustaining ways to live and make a living – and do it soon – our planet’s life support system will collapse with much suffering and regret along the way.

We can completely avoid this calamity.  We can create economies and ways of life that are fair, just, respectful, humane, prosperous, and completely life support sustaining.

All that’s required is that enough of us work together to make it happen.  When good people come together, the only limit is our imagination and consciousness.  And ultimately there is no limit to that.

I am committed to taking a leadership roll in this effort.  I invite you to join me.  We’ll all feel better, and our children and future generations will thank us.

─────

Our Most Valuable Knowlege and Greatest Challenge

Given our time and place in history, there is no knowledge more valuable or challenge greater than knowing how our planet’s life support system works and how to use that knowledge to create a win-win life support sustaining economy and future.

We,and especially our youth, face the greatest challenge ever faced by humankind – to develop ways for 8 to 10 billion people to live and make a living on our planet, in a manner which is fair, not only for those alive today, but also for future generations, and which protects the beauty, majesty and productive potential of our planet’s life support system.

My plan is to start where I live, in the San Diego/Tijuana region.  The foundation of my plan is to create a solid economic base here by becoming as energy, water and food self-sufficient as possible, as soon as possible.

Whatever winds of the world blow our way, the more control we have over the supply of these essentials, the greater control we will have over our future well-being.

How?  By returning the dollars we now export to pay for the energy, water and food we import.

Economists tell us the multiplier effect of adding $20 billion to our regional economy each year would increase annual local economic activity by $40 to $80 billion, increasing local economic activity by 30 to 60 percent.

Plus, as we develop a sustainable economy in our own region, we will be taking the world lead in the development of an emerging global industry to help regions and countries around the world create their own sustainable economies. 

─────

Global Warming

My research strongly indicates that global warming is happening and that using fossil fuels adds to it.  At last count, almost 100 percent of the world's climate specialists have concluded that global warming is a fact and that human activities are a major contributing factor.  The insurance industry has published estimates for the worldwide cost of global warming in the near term as high as $300 billion a year.

However, the history of reliable temperature measurements and other indicators is far too short to provide scientific proof that human activity is contributing to global warming.  Plus, we know that our planet has gone through numerous warming periods and ice ages in the past when the human contribution of greenhouse gas was negligible.

Even though we don't yet have scientific proof that human activity is contributing to global warming, given what we do know, it’s only prudent that we do as much as possible as soon as possible to eliminate human contributions to greenhouse gas.

Especially considering there is plenty of renewable energy to meet our needs without adding any greenhouse gas to our atmosphere at all.

In the San Diego/Tijuana region, where I live, 20 percent coverage of our buildings and parking lots with solar photovoltaic (PV) cells, coupled with efficiency improvements, would generate enough electricity to replace all forms of energy (electricity, natural gas, gasoline, and diesel) currently used in the region.

This means the San Diego/Tijuana region can be completely energy self-sufficient with energy efficiency improvements and renewable energy development.  Once energy self-sufficiency is achieved, no energy-use related greenhouse gas would be emitted.  Even on the way to self-sufficiency, the more energy self-sufficient we become, the less energy use related greenhouse gas we will emit.

With efficiency improvements, even Northern Cities like Seattle can achieve energy self-sufficiency with 40 percent coverage of its roofs and parking lots with solar cells.

─────

Genetic Engineering

Hey, the world’s a crazy place.  The human creature is endowed with infinite cleverness and almost zip wisdom.

Genetic engineering is the latest example of this.  But unlike past manifestations of our cleverness, genetic engineering represents the first time in history where human decisions have the potential to change life on our planet forever.

I see a pattern here.

The pesticides and toxic waste we’ve created and continue to release into our life support system will take tens and potentially hundreds of generations to be rendered harmless to human and other life.

With nuclear power, we’ve created and continue to release radioactive materials into our life support system that will take thousands if not hundreds of thousands of generations to become safe for unprotected human exposure.

Now comes genetic engineering with potentially infinite consequences.

Given our track record up to now, I don’t believe that the human family is yet conscious enough to be trusted with making potentially forever decisions.

Especially considering some people are:

  • So insane for money and power that they are capable of doing anything to impose their agenda on the world.
  • So sure they are doing God’s will that they will do anything to impose their religious agenda on others.
  • So sure that their ideology is correct that they will do whatever they deem necessary to impose their worldview on the rest of us.
And even when our motives are pure, intelligent, democratic, and totally dedicated to improving the common good, who among us has the wisdom to fully comprehend the ultimate consequences of releasing self-replicating organisms of human creation into our common environment, however noble our motives?

I’m not saying that we should abandon our quest for knowledge in this or any other area.

I’m insisting that for the sake of our youth and future generations, that wisdom and its partner humility should be foremost in our minds and hearts before we choose to unleash whatever our cleverness makes possible.

The human family has lived at least 100,000 generations, each generation being 33 years (enough time for a human to reproduce and raise their child to adulthood).  Our job is to ensure that we leave the next 100,000 generations with a healthy, happy, functional world.

─────

Population

If everyone living on our planet agreed to be the biological parent of no more than 2 children during their life, over time, world population would decline.  This is because some people, by choice or by accident, would have only one child or none at all.

The more immediate population issue is negative impact per person.  A compelling argument can be made that the amount of negative impact of an average U.S citizen is 100 times greater than that of an average person living in the developing world. The “average U.S. Citizen consumes 50 times more steel, 56 times more energy, 170 times more synthetic rubber and newsprint, 250 times more motor fuel, and 300 times more plastic than the average citizen of India.” *

Even if we assume that the negative impact per U.S. citizen is only 20 times greater than the average developing world citizen, the U.S. population alone has twice the negative impact of all the people living in developing world countries combined.

It’s not that living the good life is wrong, it’s the methods we’re using to obtain it that are the problem.  If we use sustainable methods to live the good life, there won’t be a problem.  Plus, we already have all the technologies needed to create the good life all around the world with many promising technologies and strategies in development. 

With efficiency improvements, even Northern Cities like Seattle can achieve energy self-sufficiency with 40 percent coverage of its roofs and parking lots with solar cells.

* Miller, G. Tyler. Environmental Science, an Introduction.  2nd Edition, Wadsworth Publishing Co., Belmont, California, (1988):  pp. 7-8.

─────

Using Hydrogen Gas To Store Intermittent Renewable Energy

Using hydrogen gas to store intermittent renewable energy supplies sounds so wonderful.  We install renewable energy capturing devices like solar cells and wind turbines, then use the electricity they produce that we don't use directly to separate water into oxygen (O2) and hydrogen (H2).  Then we use fuel cells to efficiently convert the stored hydrogen into energy to power our cars, buses and trucks and to produce electricity when the sun isn’t shining and the wind’s not blowing.  Plus, at the end of the process, we end up with the water we started with.

I said it sounds wonderful, but plans to use hydrogen to store solar generated electricity, may be fatally flawed.

This flaw is the loss of hydrogen to space that will result when hydrogen is released into the general atmosphere through leaky pipes and storage containers and through incomplete combustion.  I’ve talked with several experts in this field, and they tell me that hydrogen gas, and helium too, will float out into space if released into the atmosphere because the earth’s gravity is not strong enough to hold them.

If this is true, any free hydrogen gas that leaks out of storage or distribution pipes, or is not burned completely during combustion, will leave our planet.  If this hydrogen is derived from water, it’s loss means a loss of planetary water.

Does this mean a gradually drying planet?  No one knows because we haven’t done the research.

How much these losses would be per year needs to be calculated, but the loss of natural gas, from wellhead to end user is currently 5 to 10 percent.

Presumably hydrogen losses would be higher, since hydrogen is harder to contain than natural gas.  One hydrogen energy storage proponent acknowledged the loss of hydrogen would mean a loss of water but said it would be small compared to all the water on our planet.

But even if the loss of hydrogen and therefore water is relatively small, its loss may have effects much more profound than appear on the surface.

Even though all greenhouse gases, human released or natural, make up less than make up 1/20th of one percent (.05 percent) of our atmosphere, its increase from .03 to .04 percent since the beginning of the industrial revolution is having a profound affect on our planet’s climate, ocean currents, glaciers, and the distribution and even survival of tens of thousands of life forms.

Who is in a position to say that the loss of a small amount of planetary water will not have an even more devastating effect on planetary systems?

Especially considering we don’t need take the risk since there are many other ways to store intermittent renewable energy without losing planetary water.  Pump storage, compressed air, flywheels, chemical (battery) storage, and biomass are just some of the options.

To tell the truth, I wish that hydrogen was the answer because it would give us a simple answer to storing intermittent solar generated electricity, but unless it can be used in ways where no planetary water is lost, other methods for storing renewable energy should be used.

There’s also the issue of increasing the amount of oxygen in the atmosphere.  Unlike hydrogen, oxygen is heavy enough to be held by the earth’s gravity.  Will the oxygen separated from its lost hydrogen partners increase the percentage of oxygen in our atmosphere?

If so, fires will be easier to start and harder to put out, metal will oxidize faster and perhaps more serious, the oxidation of the organic materials in soil will speed up.

As before, nobody knows because the research hasn’t been done.  To me, the rush to use hydrogen gas to store renewable energy sounds like the rush to nuclear power.  Remember “too cheap to meter”?  True, breaking the H2O bond to separate hydrogen and oxygen doesn’t create radioactive waste, but the loss of planetary water and increased oxygen in our atmosphere may have a profoundly negative affect on human well being and life support system health in the long run.

Shouldn’t we at least do the science to find out if the concerns I’ve raised are valid or not?  In the course of human history, we’ve jumped on bandwagon after bandwagon for the new best thing to solve a problem, only to find out later that we’ve caused an even bigger problem than the one we set out to solve.

In this case, the problem is storing intermittent solar energy.  We have many options; hydrogen is just one potential option.

Let’s not let our legitimate quest to free ourselves from our dependence on fossil fuels and nuclear power override our due diligence in charting an energy future that is truly life support sustaining.

─────

Water

 

If we use it intelligently, water is infinitely renewable.  If we use it unwisely, we can lose the amount usable to us. 

 

─────

We Are Miracles

Every human being is a miracle.  Through all the twists and turns of existence, the chance that anyone of us would be living today approaches infinity.  Even if we only consider the one sexual union between our mother and father that resulted in our conception, our chance of existing is one trillion to one.  (Your mother contributed one of 500 eggs and your father contributed some 200 million sperm.  (Five hundred x 200 million = one trillion.)

If we multiply the one trillion by the number of times our parents had sex before and after our conception.

Then multiply that total again by the string of individuals who had to reproduce an offspring that reproduced in turn, and so on, for over 100,000 generations that ultimately led to our own individual existence.

Like I said, the chance that any one of us would exist today approaches infinity.

What does this mean?

It means we should respect ourselves and each other for the miracles we are.  We should respect all life and our planet's life support system as the miracles they are.  We should work to become more conscious to better apply our talents and planetary resources to ensure that our children and future generations have a healthy, happy prosperous world in which to grow up.

We should honor our ancestors, for if it were not for them, we would not exist.  We should honor our descendants for if not for us, they will never get a chance to exist.

─────

Freeing Ourselves from Prejudice

 

Discrimination of any kind is a wound to everyone.  When our young say, “Don’t dis me,” they are talking about the importance of being respected and respecting each other just for being alive.  Just for being ourselves.  Just for being the miracles we are.

Respect is about honoring each person’s right to pursue life, liberty, and happiness as they see fit as long as they don’t hurt or cheat others in the process.  This right is the heart of democracy, the U.S. Constitution, the protection of individual freedom, and the heart of everything that is good in the human family.

The peace we seek can be found by using our minds and following our hearts.  It’s not exclusive to any culture, belief, ideology, skin color, social or economic class.  It can only be found in our heart.

 

─────

Consciousness

What is consciousness?

Consciousness is the realization that hurting others to get our way leads away from the peace and fulfillment we want.

Consciousness is part of the process of the universe and beyond knowing itself.

Consciousness is the process of becoming more helpful and less hurtful in our dealings with others and with the world of life that we are part of and dependent on.

Consciousness is using our minds and following our hearts.  It’s realizing that everyone begins life as an innocent baby.  That when we come to life, all we bring is our genes.  As we live, we have our experiences.  Whatever our genes and experiences amount to, when we become conscious enough, we can chose to become more conscious and on and on.

The more conscious we become, the less confused we are.  The less confused we are, the more conscious we become.

Consciousness is about getting in the driver’s seat of our own life and driving carefully so as not to cause harm to ourself and others as we learn how to drive.

Consciousness is about getting connected to young people and future generations.  We are now but the future is all there is.  Even in our individual lives, the future is all we have.

Consciousness is doing good – or at least not causing harm – simply because it’s the right thing to do.

Consciousness is realizing that if we treat others with respect, they will generally return the favor.

We stand between the mirrors of all that has ever been and all that will ever be, and we have free will.  What a gift, what an honor, what a responsibility, the creator of all that is has bestowed upon us!

─────

Investing in an Energy-Secure Future
The City of San Diego:  A Case Study

Currently, the residents and businesses of San Diego export $1 billion every year to pay for imported electricity or for natural gas to make electricity locally.  By investing this money to make San Diego more energy efficient and to develop its renewable energy resources, San Diego can gain a yearly economic activity benefit “turn-around” of $10 billion.  In 30 years, this turn-around benefit will boost San Diego’s economy by more than $300 billion, as the chart below shows.

In addition to these enormous economic benefits, San Diego will get a major boost in its energy security.  By eliminating its dependence on imported energy, it will also eliminate the risk of shortages due to failed transmission lines, pipelines, highway links, and deliberate manipulation of the energy market.  To cut off San Diego’s electricity, would-be terrorists will have to go from house to house – knocking out a transmission line (or even several) won’t do it.

Legend

1

Investing $1 billion of low interest revenue bond dollars each year to hire local contractors and trades people to make our buildings more energy efficient and to install solar photovoltaic (PV) cells on roofs and over parking lots.  The bond would be paid off with the money no longer exported to pay for imported energy.  If you save energy or produce it locally from the sun, you don’t have to pay to import it.  Efficiency improvements would include installing better insulation in walls and attics, double-glazed windows, fans, more efficient lighting and appliances, etc.

5

Maintaining the status quo.  Currently we export $1 billion out of San Diego’s economy each year, for imported electricity or imported natural gas to make electricity.  If this money were spent locally on efficiency improvements and renewable energy development we’d gain a positive economic swing of $10 billion each year or $300 billion over 30 years.

2

Economic Multiplier Benefit.  According to economists, every dollar spent in a local economy generates $2 to $4 of additional economic activity.  This graph assumes an average of $3 of additional economic activity per dollar spent.  Thus, investing $1 billion per year on becoming more energy self-sufficient will generate $3 billion of additional economic activity each year.

6

Lost economic multiplier benefits.  Exporting $1 billion to pay for imported energy means there is no economic multiplier benefit gained in spending this money.

3

New tax revenue added to city coffers.  Spending $1 billion each year on efficiency and renewable energy, plus $3&nsp;billion in economic multiplier benefits it will generate, will increase local tax revenues by $40 million each year, assuming a one percent tax benefit on the $4 billion spent.

7

Lost tax revenues because the original $1 billion was exported.  Once dollars leave our local economy, no local tax revenues can be generated from them.

4

Dollars gained in freed up taxes, lower cost of living expenses, business and job creation, translates into:

  • Fewer tax dollars needed to prevent and prosecute crime and to provide social services.
  • Less drain on unemployment insurance funds, while increasing social security reserves.
  • Fewer dollars needed to treat pollution related illnesses (efficiency and renewables are nearly pollution free.)
  • Fewer property maintenance costs.  Pollution attacks paint, roofing, clothing, landscaping, public art, etc.
  • Energy security insurance.  The more we reduce our dependence on imported energy, the more energy secure we will be.
8

Loss of freed up taxes and loss of a reduction in the general cost of living.  When dollars are exported, they do not generate local economic activity or reduce tax liabilities.

─────

Nuclear Power — One of Humankind's Biggest Mistakes

Jim Bell


Nuclear Power was a mistake and remains a mistake. If the human family survives it, our descendants will wonder what we were thinking to justify leaving them nuclear power’s toxic legacy -- a legacy they will be dealing with for hundreds if not thousands of generations

And why did we do it? To power our lights, TVs, radios, stereos, air conditioners, etc. and the tools we used to make them.

Our creation of nuclear power will be especially difficult for our descendants to understand because they will know that in the nuclear era, we already had all the technologies and know-how needed to power everything in ways that are perpetually recyclable, powered by free solar energy and which leave zero harmful residues in their wake.

On its own, nuclear power’s toxic radioactive legacy should be enough to give any thinking person sufficient reason to want to eliminate it as quickly as possible and do everything to protect our descendants from the radioactive wastes already created.

The human family has been at war with itself for the majority of its history. Human history is full of successful, advanced and sophisticated civilizations that utterly collapsed. To the informed, even our current civilization(s) don’t feel very solid. Plus there are earthquakes, tsunami’s volcanoes, severe weather, terrorism, and just plain human error. This given, who can guarantee that anything as dangerous and long-lived as nuclear waste can be kept safe for even 100 years much less the hundreds to hundreds of thousands of years it will take before some of these wastes are safe to be around.

And even if an insurance company did guarantee its safety, what is their guarantee worth? What could they do to protect us and future generations if San Onofre’s spent fuel storage pond lost its coolant water. If this happened an almost unquenchable radioactive fire would spontaneously erupt, spewing radioactive materials wherever the wind blew for weeks if not months -- rendering Southern California a dangerous place to live for thousands if not hundreds of thousands of years.

Notwithstanding the above, the nuclear industry is lobbying the public and the government to continue supporting them politically and economically so the industry can expand.

Its latest rational is that nuclear power will produce fewer greenhouse gases than what would be produced using fossil fuels to make electricity. This is true if one only looks at what happens inside a reactor. It’s not true when accounting for all the fossil fuel energy consumed during nuclear power’s fuel cycle, and what it takes to build, operate and dismantle plants when they wear out. Additionally, even if nuclear power was ended today, fossil fuel energy must be consumed for millennia in order to protect the public from the radioactive residues that nuclear power has already generated.

An increasing number of former industry and non-industry experts are saying that at best nuclear power releases slightly fewer greenhouse gases to the atmosphere than if the fossil fuels embodied in it had been burned to make electricity directly.

In his 2002 book, Asleep at the Geiger Counter, p. 107-118, Sidney Goodman, (giving the industry the benefit of the doubt on a number of fronts and assuming no serious accidents or terrorism), concludes that the net output of the typical nuclear power plant would be only 4% more than if the fossil fuels embodied in it had been uses directly to produce electricity. This means, best-case scenario, replacing direct fossil fuel generated electricity with nuclear generated electricity will only reduce the carbon dioxide released per unit of electricity produced by 4%. Goodman is a long practicing licensed Professional Engineer with a Masters Degree in Mechanical Engineering.

Other experts believe that nuclear power will produce about the same amount of energy as was, is, and will be consumed to create, operate and deal with its aftermath. This case was made in an article published in Pergamon Journals Ltd. Vol.13, No. 1, 1988, P. 139, titled “The Net Energy Yield of Nuclear Power.” In their article the authors concluded that even without including the energy that has or would be consumed to mitigate past or future serious radioactive releases, nuclear power is only “the re-embodiment of the energy that went into creating it.”

In its July/August 2006 edition, The Ecologist Magazine, a respected British publication, featured a16-page analysis of nuclear power. One of the conclusions was that nuclear power does not even produce enough electricity to make up for the fossil fuels consumed just to mine, mill and otherwise process uranium ore into nuclear fuel, much less all the other energy inputs required This is not surprising given that typical U-235 ore concentrations of .01% to .02%, require mining, crushing and processing a ton of ore to end up with 1/2 oz to 1 oz of nuclear reactor fuel.

To put this in perspective, the typical 1,000 MW nuclear power plants uses around 33 tons or over 1 million oz of nuclear fuel each year.

As a teenager I saw a TV program that showed a man holding a piece of metal in the palm of his hand. He was saying that if what he held was pure uranium it would contain as much energy as the train full of coal that was passing by him on the screen. I became an instant “true believer” in nuclear power. I thought if something that small can produce the same amount of energy as all that coal, there will be plenty of energy and therefore plenty of money to address any dangers that using it might pose.

Unfortunately, to get that level of energy from a small amount of pure or near pure uranium it would require that it be exploded as an atomic bomb. Of the uranium used in a reactor, only a fraction of the energy in pure uranium gets used. That’s why we are left with depleted uranium and other long-lived wastes.

The nuclear industry says that nuclear power is safe, a big net energy producer, and that it will be cheap and easy to keep its wastes out of the environment and out of the hands of terrorists.

But if these claims are true, why has an industry that supplies only 8% of our country’s total energy and 20% of its electricity consumed hundreds of billions of tax dollar subsidies since its inception? The 2005 Federal Energy Bill continues this trend. According to U.S. PIRG, Taxpayers for Common Sense, Public Citizen and the Congressional Research Service the recently passed 2005 Federal Energy Bill includes “a taxpayer liability of $14 to $16 billion” in support of nuclear power.

If nuclear power is so safe and wonderful, why does it require the Price Anderson Act? The Price Anderson Act puts taxpayers on the hook if the cost of a major radioactive release exceeds $10.5 billion. According to a Sandia National Laboratory analysis, this puts taxpayers on the hook for over $600 billion to cover the damage that a serious radioactive release would cause. Another Sandia Laboratory study focusing just on the Indian Point nuclear power plant in New York, concluded the damage caused by a serious release from that plant could cost up to a trillion dollars. Needless to say, any serious radioactive release from any U. S. plant would wipe out any net energy gain by nuclear power if -- there ever was one.

Realizing the potential cost of a serious radioactive release, manufacturers, insurers and utilities, were unwilling to build, insure or order plants. They only got seriously involved after the Congress assigned these cost to the taxpaying public. On page 7 of a report by the Institute for Energy and Environmental Research titled The Nuclear Power Deception, they included the follow 1996 quote from then NRC Commissioner James Asselstine, “given the present level of safety being achieved by the operating nuclear power plants in this country, we can expect a meltdown within the next 20 years, and it is possible that such as accident could result in off-site releases of radiation which are as large as, or larger than the released estimates to have occurred at Chernobyl.” Bare in mind, a meltdown is only one of several things that could happen with nuclear power to cause a serious radioactive release.

As I said in the beginning, nuclear power is a mistake. Especially considering we already have all the technologies and know-how needed to make us completely and abundantly renewable energy self-sufficient. Solar energy leaves no radioactive residues for our children or future generations. Additionally, although not completely environmentally benign yet, solar energy collection systems can be designed to last generations, be perpetually recyclable and leave zero toxic residues behind.

If San Diego County covered 24% of its roofs and parking lots with PV panels, it would produce more electricity than the county consumes. This assumes that 3 million resident use, on average, 10 kWh per capita per day after installing cost-effective electricity use efficiency improvements. For details read my free books at www.jimbell.com. They are also available in most local libraries.

For ourselves, our children and future generations, let’s move into the solar age.