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Trees and Plants

Posted by Zane Hunker on March 21, 2013 at 10:40 AM

Transportation is now the biggest consumer of fossil fuels, more than agriculture and manufacturing. Transportation presents unique energy challenges to electrification and alternative fuels by virtue of the fact that vehicles move. It’s much easier to reconfigure power to a machine that is stationary as opposed to a machine that has to move and meet various speed, range and capacity requirements.

Oil is a miraculous substance for its energy potential which was built up for millions of years under the Earth’s surface crushing so many dead plants and animals for humans to extract it, refine it, and then burn it off quickly soon after. Once located it takes only about 2% of oil’s energy to pump it out of the ground. An equivalent of a teacup of oil can lift a ton 9 feet. When John D. Rockefeller’s Standard Oil was first refining kerosene for lamps, the byproduct of gasoline was thought of as merely a dangerous, useless substance. Rockefeller saw that danger as energy potential. Today many industries use oil as well as cars, trains, ships and airplanes. Plastic uses around 10% of all oil extracted. We are living in the oil age.

Hummankind will need to diversify its energy portfolio, for environmental and economic reasons. As the more easily extractable oil disappears, the more drilling and shaking will be needed to extract the remaining sources. Earth will never run entirely out of oil, it will only get prohibitively expensive to extract.

Trees and plants consume Co2 and release oxygen. Even if Co2 produced climate change were to warm the planet somewhat, those trees and plants would enjoy it as much as they did at a time when the dinosaurs roamed a warm earth before they perished and turned into this thing called oil. A rainforest full of trees and plants produces a lot of oxygen, though it also uses a lot of that oxygen. It is the mineral and material discharge from rainforests into the oceans feeding plankton that really produces a lot of oxygen consumed by humankind around the world. If the ocean warms up, then we’ll have to rely a lot more on those dwindling trees and plants for our oxygen. Less polution is needed as much as less de-forestation.

Cars, trains and ships will be more easily converted to electricity than airplanes. The mere principal of a jet engine doesn’t exist without fossil fuels. In the future, high speed trains will carry more people and goods on the ground. Short range electric propeller planes will continue to connect us to nearby cities and otherwise inaccessible locations. When we do need to hop over to the other side of the planet, space planes will be launched upward quickly by magnets and deliver us to our destination within the hour. For that short time in space we will be able to look down on our big blue planet full of trees and plants and feel good about how we’ve preserved life for ourselves and progressed as well. Then we will brace for re-entry, land, depart our globe hoping craft and go on with our lives.


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