18 Apr. 2007
SETI League
PriUPS Project


The Day the Earth Caved In by Joan Quigley - coverI haven't read the book.

I probably won't read the book.  It's long, it's not free, and, as you will see in a minute, I have read the review.

I haven't done any research.  This is still the RIKLblog.

I haven't done a lot of confirmatory math, although by the time we're done here I will have done at least an order-of-magnitude calculation.

I don't accept anyone's "global warming" theory as gospel.  It may be that we'll all be leeks in a stew in a few decades, or it may be that anthropogenic CO2 generation is the only thing preventing a new ice age.

It doesn't matter what I think anyway, as I have no telekinetic influence over the solar phoenix reaction or the ability to influence the large number of my fellow countrypersons who are driving to work in their Hummers when they could be telecommuting or, better, just taking a nap.

I personally disclaim other than an insignificant marginal effect on global warming:  I have more than enough trees to compensate for my own exhalations, and I drive a Prius to work (when I'm not just taking a nap).

Vast amounts of carbon dioxide come from uncontrollable sources such as volcanic eruptions. 

We even get extra carbon in the atmosphere from cosmic rays!  That's why carbon dating works.  It's a universal conspiracy, I tell you.

I have no idea if what you are about to read is true.  It was printed in the Wall Street Journal, which gives it (among some) prima facie credibility, but it was written by a book reviewer, who read a book, whose author probably got her facts from "sources."

China's Burning Coal Mines

I disclaim myself so comprehensively and vigorously because in the book review I just read I found a truly stunningalmost incredibleparagraph.  It reads, in part:

Today, uncontrolled fires burn fiercely in many nations; more than 100 million tons of coal are consumed by fires annually in China, contributing as much to world-wide carbon dioxide emissions as all the cars and light trucks in the U.S.

Is that possible

We could cut our vehicular emissions in half by converting every single auto in the U.S., hundreds of millions of them, at the cost of over a trillion dollars, to economical hybrids.  And there are people who argue we should do just that, to prevent (conjectural) global warming.  Is it remotely possible that we can accomplish twice that by putting out just the coal mine fires in China?  I shall interject an editorial "Yikes!" right here.  Sometimes I'm overcome by the need to do that.

Just to confirm my "Yikes," a quick calculation:

Burning a gallon of gas produces 20 pounds of CO2.  If you burn 10 gallons of gas per week (you know who you are), then that's 200 pounds per week, or a ton in ten weeks, or five tons per year.  And you are one of 200 million drivers.  That comes out to a billion tons of carbon dioxide.  Burning "over" 100 million tons of coal adds "over" 300 million tons of carbon dioxide.  Not quite "as much" but there's a lot of slop in my guesswork and, possibly, in the author's "sources."  Even if the figure is an exaggeration, China's burning coal mines, in addition to being a great name for a rock band*, clearly are a significant source of anthropogenic greenhouse gases.  If we could somehow douse the fires (and the associated horrific waste of energy), we could all feel less guilt about our profligate driving, and help save the earth from global warming.  (Or, of course, fail to prevent an ice age.  Who knows?)

I'm inescapably reminded here of the first Iraq war, the one that actually ended, albeit with giant oilfields in Kuwait on fire.  Did not Red Adair find a way to extinguish the fires more cheaply and much faster than anyone expected?  Where's our new "Blackie (it is coal) Adair" who will go to China and help them solve our problem?  Surely, compared to the trillion or so dollars it will cost to replace our vehicular fleet, this will be a bargain!

*Do I really need to credit Dave Barry with this type of running joke?  OK, so mote it be.

NP:  "Sole Survivor" - Asia

Richard Factor

Yesterday  |  Tomorrow