In as much as storms experienced by the Northeast can be attributed to global warming, they have also capped the region with bitter cold. Explaining the irony in general terms, frigidity was released from its natural arctic storage early – before the earth’s seasonal tilt away from the sun - in the form of melting ice flowing south to merge with a late hurricane.
The skewed timing of both events are in accordance with increased global temperatures, with each manifesting the disordering effect of thermodynamic entropy. The storms’ violence can be attributed to the energy freed by extra atmospheric heat, which drives more widely varied weather events harder. If the liberated energy sounds like a good thing, the unpredictibilty of weather events – another characteristic of entropy increase – makes it virtually unusable. The amount of Sandy’s stupendous energy tapped into was ZERO.
In a very real sense, this situation results from our ways of energy use. Aside from overuse, gross imbalance and numerous misuses of specific resources are apparent. For example, solar plants functioning on limited real time input try to compensate by appropriating huge spaces, wherefrom much diffused energy captured is lost in transmission. Then at nuclear plants, every unit of electricity generated results in twice as much heat which, located far from use, goes to waste. These and myriad misplaced uses of fossil fuels represent a kind of frictional heat added to the global fire.
In contrast to the problems of coal and oil, natural gas has increasingly been touted as a cure-all, minus the negatives relatively speaking. For certain, NG has found applicability in a variety of areas: generating electricity; fertilizing food staples; plastics production. Natural gas provides the flame by which ethanol is refined, and is increasingly powers vehicles. All this in addition to its first and most natural role of heating space, water, and food.
But popular demand has underscored the status of Natural Gas as a fossil fuel in limited supply. That reality has led to hydraulic fracturing - the practice of squeezing gas most unnaturally out of the earth with huge quantities of water subjected to earth shaking pressures, and then spoiling the waters with chemicals used. A recent ad blitz from NG interests claims that a hundred years worth of this energy source is right under our feet! Not mentioned is how it took nature hundreds of millions of years to form that gas. What makes “fracking” especially unnecessary is the practice of flaring gas off at oil production facilities around the world. I well remember the hellish fires mirrored on glistening black waters boating through a Persian Gulf night to my first diving assignment almost 40 years ago, and the practice continues to this day.
Judicious use of natural gas – whereby fracking isn’t needed – could extend its supply over a thousand years. Because it is basically stored solar energy, NG’s most logical use is backing up passive solar space heating, solar hot water, biofuels, and passive geothermal schemes. Not only is gas superior to cooking with an electric stove, it is much more energy efficient; the same goes for the gas furnace made cheery by the glow of ceramic elements. On the other hand, better ways exist to generate electricity, fertilize crops, convert them to fuel, power vehicles, etc. For the latter, the heavy oil that dominates the Northeast heating market is better employed, and NG would be home heating’s natural replacement there.
. . as it would generally be backing up real time green design. Another right idea in the right place is microgenerated PV, the virtue of which the storms should underscore. From individual standpoints storms are weathered better, and with widespread use there would tend to be fewer and less violent storms. In the meanwhile, multiple misuses and multiple storms signify disorders in which even metaphorical friction gets increasingly physical.