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Two global warming questions

  1. Apr 7, 2007 #1
    1) How come on the PhysicsForums almost no one says “global warming” instead they say “anthropogenic global warming” while the media, and the average person, always refers to it as “global warming”?

    2) It is my understanding that if US legislators rule to try and combat anthropogenic global warming it would most likely cost the average US household more money for energy then what we are currently paying. I’ve heard the figure could be as much as 2-3 thousand a year… in the form of something like a carbon tax, wind bill, etc…

    Are only the energy companies the ones that stand to loose/spend additional money? Or will my electric bill go up a couple hundred bucks a month?
  2. jcsd
  3. Apr 7, 2007 #2


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    "Global warming" refering to short term warming over the past few decades is a fact. Anthropogenic global warming is the idea that it's caused by humans, and it's just a theory at this point.

    Possibly. If North America had to follow the same tax standards as Europe, the poverty level would soar. Most Europeans do not drive 15 miles to get to work, but I do. Most Europeans have never felt a -40C winter, but it happens every single year in Alberta; north Alberta often gets as cold as -50. Most Europeans have never felt temperatures as high as +50C after humidity correction, but it happens every year in Ontario and it causes brownouts every time it happens (people running AC)

    Energy companies will never give slack to the government because it would set a bad precedent. If the energy company will soak up $100 of your monthly bill, why not $200? Why not $300? Where does it stop? It's a slippery slope that they can't possibly win, so they won't budge on the price. If the government adds taxes on your existing energy consumption, your monthly bills will increase by exactly the amount of the new tax.
  4. Apr 7, 2007 #3
    The media uses the term "global warming", because anthropogenic is not a commonly understood term.

    It depends on the solutions.

    The best solution for the average consumer is to reduce consumption, which in turns saves money.

    If your electric bill should rise $200.00 a month, you could purchase a PV solar system with a home equity loan and end up with a net monthly gain.
  5. Apr 8, 2007 #4


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    This is always good advice, but it's a misconception that north americans are just a bunch of wasteful *******s. The vast majority of energy use is for heating, cooling, cooking, and cleaning. We heat our homes based on the weather, so that can't be changed. We run AC based on the weather and we need refrigerators for sanitary reasons, so neither of those are changing. Cooking is for sanitary reasons as well, so that's not changing. Cleaning is also for sanitary reasons, and we generally pack things like dishwashers and clothes washing machines as much as we can before we turn them on, so those aren't changing.
    Solar panels are only an option if you own a house, but most people do not own houses, so that idea is out.

    In the end, there's no way around getting nailed by the tax man. We're already trying to save as much energy (money) as we can, so piling more taxes on energy sources is nothing more than making the poor even more poor than they were before.
  6. Apr 8, 2007 #5
    Here is the historical home ownership census data. A clear majority of Americans own their own home.

    Local governments can regulate multiple family dwellings, to require them to meet energy efficiency standards.

    So there is not a huge problem to overcome here, and the conversion to a greener energy grid can be a huge boon to the economy, as well as a sound investment in long term infrastructure.

    Why not put American capital to work in America, creating a carbon/pollution neutral energy system that will be the model for third world development.

    Throwing our hands up in the air and say "nothing can be done", is no longer a viable option.

    It's better than Bush's gambit for political capital in Iraq.
  7. Apr 8, 2007 #6
    This is where the feasibility comes in. So you want to drastically reduce energy costs because of ....erm ...costs and anticipated increase of costs.

    In Holland we were faced with an energy crisis in 1971. Nowadays our houses use only 10-20% of the energy which was required then. Roof insulation, wall insulation, floor insulation, heating pipe insulation, double or triple glass, heat blankets behind the heating radiators, high efficiency boilers and heaters. Isolation works both way, easier -less energy- to heat up in winter time, easier to cool in summer time.

    But it's all just math: what is the investment, what is the effect, what is the monthly/annual saving on the heat bill. How long does it take to earn back the investment? Times here range typically from a few months (heating pipe insulation) to ten+ years, double glass in the sleeping rooms. Typical earn back time here is about three years. Then you decide what is feasible and what not.

    Next possible options: heat exchangers, pumping warm water into a ground well in summer time and getting it out again in winter time for heating purpose. again costs - effect calculation.

    Next possible option: expendables. Live in the middle of nowhere? Lot's of sun and wind? Almost a no brainer to find energy sources. But, do the math.

    And there are high efficent clean modern diesel cars nowadays doing 1 in 50 easily.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2007
  8. Apr 8, 2007 #7
    Absolutely. There are lots of ways to heat a home, but there is an initial cost to each. Just south of Calgary Alberta, on the Canadian prairies with winter temperatures to -33C, there is a group of homes that gets 90% of their heat from solar. But the installation wasn't cheap.
    The amazing thing to me is, that the solar panels are on the garage roofs only, not on the houses. So the possibility is obviously there for total solar heat.

    Where I live, we don't get much winter sun, but in-ground heat pumps are starting to get popular. They are fairly expensive too, but not if you consider the likely future energy costs.
  9. Apr 8, 2007 #8


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    That's interesting, but I don't see how it could possibly work. Their winters are very cold and the amount of thermal storage there is not very large. Plus, the temperature of the thermal storage is going to be low, so they must need a ton of airflow. I'd like to see them do a study next year when it gets up and running.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2007
  10. Apr 8, 2007 #9
    No airflow, this is a thermal heat exchange system using water. In fact I believe it is the same type of system that Andre was referring to in his post.

    Here are the details of the Borehole Thermal Energy Storage system.
  11. Apr 8, 2007 #10


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    My mistake. The quickest stat I could find was 75 million people in the US owning a house, which would be about 1/4.

    My point still stands that jacking the price up will not better the situation. If the government really wanted to help, they would give some kind of tax credit or grants for people to make their homes more efficient. This has been done in the past, and it does work.
    My parents bought their house in the 1970s before the energy crisis hit, so the insulation was done sort of half-ass. When energy prices started to go up, a government program was put in place to help home owners add more insulation to their house. My parents jumped on that opportunity and had the entire house reinsulated for next to nothing; maybe a few hundred dollars (as opposed to a few thousand).
    Programs like this could be done for all sorts of things. There should be some kind of tax deduction for getting a new furnace because the heat exchangers in the older ones are absolute crap compared to modern ones. A tax credit for solar panels would be great. All solar panels and insulation should be tax-free.

    I've said it before and I'll say it again. Raising the price of energy, or any other commodity for that matter (food, water, etc) will only serve to hurt lower class people.
    Last edited: Apr 8, 2007
  12. Apr 8, 2007 #11
    I agree completly.

    Natural rescources IMO belong to everyone. The very few are reaping the majority of the benefits of cheap energy.

    And who do you suppose will bear the brunt of the effects of global warming?


  13. Apr 8, 2007 #12


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    China surpassed the US in CO2 production in 2003 releasing 2.73 billions tons as opposed to the US at 2.10 billion tons. By2025, China will be producing more CO2 that the entire rest of the world combined.

    "Already, China uses more coal than the United States, the European Union and Japan combined. And it has increased coal consumption 14 percent in each of the past two years in the broadest industrialization ever. Every week to 10 days, another coal-fired power plant opens somewhere in China that is big enough to serve all the households in Dallas or San Diego.

    To make matters worse, India is right behind China in stepping up its construction of coal-fired power plants — and has a population expected to outstrip China's by 2030."

    "One of China's lesser-known exports is a dangerous brew of soot, toxic chemicals and climate-changing gases from the smokestacks of coal-burning power plants.

    In early April, a dense cloud of pollutants over Northern China sailed to nearby Seoul, sweeping along dust and desert sand before wafting across the Pacific. An American satellite spotted the cloud as it crossed the West Coast.

    Researchers in California, Oregon and Washington noticed specks of sulfur compounds, carbon and other byproducts of coal combustion coating the silvery surfaces of their mountaintop detectors. These microscopic particles can work their way deep into the lungs, contributing to respiratory damage, heart disease and cancer.

    Filters near Lake Tahoe in the mountains of eastern California "are the darkest that we've seen" outside smoggy urban areas, said Steven S. Cliff, an atmospheric scientist at the University of California at Davis."

    I suggest reading this article in case you're not aware of this.

  14. Apr 8, 2007 #13


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    No, it is forced-air using water to heat the air. You may have just misunderstood what I was talking about. The website is specific:

    Andre didn't say or allude to anything about how the air in the house would eventually be heated.

    But that isn't the point anyway - whether you use an air handler or baseboard radiators, you need water at a certain temperature to get the heating capacity you need. If the water comes in at 176F at the beginning of the winter, but at 126 F at the end of the winter, the capacity of the air handler drops.
  15. Apr 8, 2007 #14


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    Some of the best ideas are ludicrously easy. Most people don't know it, but at the beginning of 2006, the gov't requirement for minimum residential a/c efficiency went from 10 seer to 13 seer. *Poof*, just like that, a 30% improvement in efficiency. It really was easy to do, too. All it takes is a larger heat exchanger. Another good one is that most residential gas furnaces are 80-85% efficient when 95% efficient furnaces are actually cheaper to install (they use PVC vents).

    Now, of course, not all changes are that easy, but in my industry the wastefulness I see is just staggering. And in most cases, it actually requires making a bad business decision to be that wateful. We had one client who had a water pump that was too large, so it had a valve mostly closed to keep from overpressurizing the system. That valve burned $1000 a month in energy costs when a variable speed drive or a new pump would have cost only $5,000 to install. And here's the kicker: we offered to buy it for them and they still wouldn't do it!

    Now I'm generally not in favor of government pressure to change bad habits, but there are some cases where people are just so spectacularly stupid that there isn't another way. One simple in principle but probably difficult to manage idea would be to monitor energy usage as a function of square footage and tax people if they use too much energy.
  16. Apr 8, 2007 #15
    My mistake Russ, I totally missed that part. I was more interested in the borehole, which is I believe what Andre was talking about:

    It is amazing the amount of waste that happens. people used to think I was eccentric, because I would supply a separate can and make the workers on my sites put their drink containers in it for recycling. Now contractors in California need to document how they handle their waste. I don't get as much resistance anymore when I want to keep construction debris separated.

    Although I didn't have to much trouble, most construction workers are very conscientious about their image. The last thing they wanted was to have their butt kicked by a vegetarian. :biggrin:

    I like the idea of charging a pollution/consumption tax. Use the revenue from the tax to fund programs that help provide cleaner and more efficient sources of energy.

    Like this one:


    I am not a supporter of expensive carbon sequestration.

    Here is a 2000 year old method that is tried and true, that has fantastic side benefits.


    Often times the best solutions are simple solutions.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2007
  17. Apr 9, 2007 #16


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    While the amount of C02 China & India are producing is a problem (IMO), I don't think it's fair to look at cutting energy consumptions in these countries with the same urgency when compared to US energy consumptions. For example, the per capita emission of C02 is 21.75 tons in the US, compared to 4.03 tons in China and 1.12 tons in India [1]. The population that these two countries need to support is enormous, therefore the larger energy consumption and C02 production.

    [1] - http://www.time.com/time/specials/2007/environment/article/0,28804,1602354_1596572_1604908-4,00.html
  18. Apr 9, 2007 #17


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    The issue is that they have the option to build these new plants with newer technology that would dramatically cut the amount of Co2, and they have chosen not to.
  19. Apr 9, 2007 #18


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    Everyone has the option to cut emissions. In India and China, this mostly requires buying more expensive foreign technology, which will destroy local suppliers and take away jobs at home. Why would a politician want to implement restrictions on the free market that cuts jobs and reduces wealth in his constituency? Either the carrot or the stick (or both) will have to grow much bigger before there is the stomach for this in the developing world.
    Last edited: Apr 9, 2007
  20. Apr 9, 2007 #19


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    Because the pollution is killing some of his consitutents. On the other hand, may be politicians hope people will not notice the premature and unnecessary deaths. :rolleyes: :yuck:

    There are such things as technology exchange.
  21. Apr 9, 2007 #20


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    The NY Times article goes into these issues. If politicians in the Western world are really concerned about Global Warming, why aren't we pushing more to help countries like China and India get the newer technology? Not only is it important for the environment, but it's important for the health of the populace of these countries.

    From the article -

    "Aware of the country's growing reliance on coal and of the dangers from burning so much of it, China's leaders have vowed to improve the nation's energy efficiency. No one thinks that effort will be enough. To make a big improvement in emissions of global-warming gases and other pollutants, the country must install the most modern equipment — equipment that for the time being must come from other nations.

    Industrialized countries could help by providing loans or grants, as the Japanese government and the World Bank have done, or by sharing technology. But Chinese utilities have in the past preferred to buy cheap but often-antiquated equipment from well connected domestic suppliers instead of importing costlier gear from the West.

    The Chinese government has been reluctant to approve the extra spending. Asking customers to shoulder the bill would set back the government's efforts to protect consumers from inflation and to create jobs and social stability.

    But each year China defers buying advanced technology, older equipment goes into scores of new coal-fired plants with a lifespan of up to 75 years.

    "This is the great challenge they have to face," said David Moskovitz, an energy consultant who advises the Chinese government. "How can they continue their rapid growth without plunging the environment into the abyss?"
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