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Off-Shoring Jobs: An ember of hope in the distance?

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The Free Trade Cultists’ chant of "It will all be better, by and by" and
claims that objecting to what passes for free trade today means that you’re
advocating no trade are untrue and, worse, counter-productive.

What needs to be done is to deal with the issue of sending jobs
off shore with some intellectual honesty.

Once that is done, we can start to address what might be solutions.

One area that should be addressed is the high cost of energy.

That’s one of the large costs of doing business in America and
one of the reasons for moving industries off shore. That cost is climbing
today and will continue to do so even more rapidly as China’s energy demands
increase exponentially (as they expand the manufacturing we off-shored).

Oil is not the answer, and even drilling in ANWR wouldn’t help
much since we have only about 3% of the world’s oil reserves.

But we do have about 250 years worth of coal reserves.

It’s not a good solution now because burning coal produces sulfur
(think acid rain) and huge amounts of carbon dioxide (think global warming).
Carbon dioxide sequestration is being studied (seeThe
Myth of the Hydrogen Economy
)
but it’s not here, and burying it underground
gets it out of the atmosphere for now but it’s still there. [Wired news
lists some recent articles.]

A claimed breakthrough in clean coal may be part of the answer:

All Fired Up Over Clean Coal

One environmentalist says his system can zap coal-plant pollution. Skeptics
abound

Dr. Robert R. Holcomb … calls his technology the Electron
Stream Carbon Dioxide Reduction system. But that’s a misnomer. The system
also targets sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx). And it doesn’t
just reduce them — it eradicates them by splitting the polluting molecules
into benign atoms. CO2, for example, gets carved up into carbon and oxygen
atoms.

Scientists say this portion of Holcomb’s
scheme is possible. But they scoff at one of his claims: that the technology
could transform
the pollutants into atoms using just a small portion of a coal-fired generator’s
energy output. Holcomb asserts that by recycling the heat and recovered
oxygen back into the coal furnace, "the CO2 converter would use only
10% of the energy generated" by a power plant. [Business
Week
subscription]

It may be "pie in the sky" but if
it does prove out in planned tests, it could be a breakthrough that contributes
to solving the
jobs problem. (If we can figure out how to get at the coal without knocking
off the tops of all the mountains in Appalachia and filling in streams and
polluting East Coast water supplies.)

And we could be spending a lot more on exploring alternative, renewable
energy sources (no, damn it, not
hydrogen
– that’s not an energy source)
.

If you’re at all concerned, you might consider writing your Senator and House
Representative
and suggesting that.

It’s probably a more productive move than arguing.

 

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About Hal

  • JR

    …the technology could transform the pollutants into atoms using just a small portion of a coal-fired generator’s energy output. Holcomb asserts that by recycling the heat and recovered oxygen back into the coal furnace, “the CO2 converter would use only 10% of the energy generated” by a power plant.

    Hey cool, a perpetual motion machine!

  • http://www.viewpointjournal.com David Flanagan

    And we could be spending a lot more on exploring alternative, renewable energy sources (no, damn it, not hydrogen – that’s not an energy source).

    You and I disagree on many things… but not on this issue. I agree wholeheartedly that we should be spending billions on better energy technology. I think that the US and Japan are likely the two best nations equipped to do this.

    Breakthroughs in this area alone will do two significant things for this country:

    1) Free us from our political ties to oppressive regimes all across the oil-rich Middle East.

    2) Create massive numbers of new jobs as we exploit new technologies.

    Thanks for a good article.

    David

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    Could be, Jr :-)

    Actually not, of course – for that you’d have to get the benefits without burning the coal.

    Holcomb’s process simply siphons off some of the energy to break apart the pollutants’ atoms. Holcomb may be “overly optimistic” about how much energy that will really require, but the idea is sound if not necessarily economically feasible.

    If it works we’ll hear about.

    And the need to do something about energy is still pressing.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    Aw, shucks, David :-)

    I believe the only way we (the whole country) are going to make any rational progress is by facing up to the issues without having to peer through an ideological prism.

    At the moment I’m trying to see if I can come up with some ways to tip-toe around the edges of those prisms and approach the very serious issues we face from different directions.

    Off-shoring of jobs is a problem: looking at the problem from the perspective that it’s not only a trade issue (sending jobs overseas isn’t even trade) might help get people thinking about what it is and then maybe we can find some solutions.

    Which doesn’t mean I won’t have further comments about Free Trade Cultists, of course :-)

    Thanks.

  • JR

    Okay, maybe I’m misreading, or the article slightly mistates what’s really going on.

    Now, the story says that the process breaks “pollutants” down to individual atoms. If they’re only talking about converting the nitrogen and sulfur compounds, then perhaps those are a small enough component of the waste gases that breaking them up takes only a fraction of the energy produced per unit of coal burned.

    However, we seem to be counting carbon dioxide as one of the “pollutants” here. In fact, they call it a “CO2 converter” and talk about breaking CO2 up into carbon and oxygen. Since coal is pretty much just carbon, burning it is the just process of combining carbon with oxygen. In other words, you get the energy by combining carbon and oxygen, but they’re claiming it only takes 10% of the energy produced to split them apart again (and you’d probably produce molecular oxygen, not atoms, since that would cost even more energy).

    If this were possible (it’s obviously not), the thing to do would be to burn the stuff again and get even more energy. Repeat infinitely, entropy be damned.

    I’m assuming the process, if it works, really only breaks up the sulfur and nitrogen pollutants. That still leaves the CO2 problem.

    If they can sequester CO2 underground, that’s good so long as it stays underground. Or at least percolates back up at a rate slower than we bury it. Sometimes, though, the long-term effects of our big ideas come back and bite us in the ass.

  • http://www.tude.com/ Hal Pawluk

    You’ll have to ask Holcomb about the process, and/or wait for the results of the new tests, JR. As I said, it may be “pie in the sky.”

    The need to do something about our energy resources remains.