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Working Together

Sunday, August 25th, 2013

The animals have perceptual intelligence. It is perceptual intelligence that allows the animals to survive in the fight or flight world of adversarity and to adapt to their environment.

We humans share the perceptual intelligence of the animals, but are blessed with a 2nd form of intelligence called conceptual intelligence. Conceptual intelligence allows us to speak with a voice, be aware of Time, and learn from our mistakes. It is conceptual intelligence that allows we humans to control the events in our lives by understanding how cause and effect work, to use tools to leverage our actions, and lets each new generation start from where the last generation left off.

Some humans learn to use their perceptual intelligence together with their conceptual intelligence to generate a 3rd form of intelligence called  genius intelligence. Examples of humans possessing  genius intelligence include: Albert Einstein in science, Michael Jordan in sports, and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart in music. It is genius intelligence that allows some humans to understand mechanism. Those understanding mechanism can invent new tools of science and technology, create new ways of playing basketball, and create original musical masterpieces.

A few humans learn to use their perceptual intelligence together with their conceptual and together with their genius intelligence to generate a 4th form of intelligence called goodness intelligence. Examples of humans possessing goodness intelligence include: Jesus of Nazareth, Siddhartha Gautama, known as the Buddha, Lao Tzu, Florence Nightingale, Albert Schweitzer, Mohandas Gandhi, Mother Teresa, and the Dali Lama to name a few. It is goodness intelligence that allows a few humans to understand consequence. Those understanding consequence can see the truth. They can see good action. They know that they should avoid hurting others, and whenever possible they should help others.

As today’s author warns: “Beginning nearly a decade ago, honeybees started dying off at unusually and mysteriously high rates—this past winter, nearly one-third of U.S. honeybee colonies died or disappeared.”

Goodness intelligence grants us humans the ability to understand consequence. If we understand consequence, then we realize that we should move as quickly as possible to understand the plight of the honeybee. For only if we understand this crisis can we hope to rescue the honeybee, and perhaps rescue ourselves as well. …

This mornings article is re-posted from the August 19, 2013 issue of Time Magazine.


The Plight of the Honeybee

Bryan Walsch

You can thank the Apis Mellifera, better known as the Western honeybee, for 1 in every 3 mouthfuls of food you’ll eat today. From the almond orchards of central California–where each spring billions of honeybees from across the U.S. arrive to pollinate a multibillion-dollar crop–to the blueberry bogs of Maine, the bees are the unsung, unpaid laborers of the American agricultural system, adding more than $15 billion in value to farming each year. In June, a Whole Foods store in Rhode Island, as part of a campaign to highlight the importance of honeybees, temporarily removed from its produce section all the food that depended on pollinators. Of 453 items, 237 vanished, including apples, lemons and zucchini and other squashes. Honeybees “are the glue that holds our agricultural system together,” wrote journalist Hannah Nordhaus in her 2011 book, The Beekeeper’s Lament.

And now that glue is failing. Around 2006, commercial beekeepers began noticing something disturbing: their honeybees were disappearing. Beekeepers would open their hives and find them full of honeycomb, wax, even honey–but devoid of actual bees. As reports from worried beekeepers rolled in, scientists coined an appropriately apocalyptic term for the mystery malady: colony-collapse disorder (CCD). Suddenly beekeepers found themselves in the media spotlight, the public captivated by the horror-movie mystery of CCD. Seven years later, honeybees are still dying on a scale rarely seen before, and the reasons remain mysterious. One-third of U.S. honeybee colonies died or disappeared during the past winter, a 42% increase over the year before and well above the 10% to 15% losses beekeepers used to experience in normal winters.

Though beekeepers can replenish dead hives over time, the high rates of colony loss are putting intense pressure on the industry and on agriculture. There were just barely enough viable honeybees in the U.S. to service this spring’s vital almond pollination in California, putting a product worth nearly $4 billion at risk. Almonds are a big deal–they’re the Golden State’s most valuable agricultural export, worth more than twice as much as its iconic wine grapes. And almonds, totally dependent on honeybees, are a bellwether of the larger problem. For fruits and vegetables as diverse as cantaloupes, cranberries and cucumbers, pollination can be a farmer’s only chance to increase maximum yield. Eliminate the honeybee and agriculture would be permanently diminished. “The take-home message is that we are very close to the edge,” says Jeff Pettis, the research leader at the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Bee Research Laboratory. “It’s a roll of the dice now.”

That’s why scientists like Pettis are working hard to figure out what’s bugging the bees. Agricultural pesticides were an obvious suspect–specifically a popular new class of chemicals known as neonicotinoids, which seem to affect bees and other insects even at what should be safe doses. Other researchers focused on bee-killing pests like the accurately named Varroa destructor, a parasitic mite that has ravaged honeybee colonies since it was accidentally introduced into the U.S. in the 1980s. Others still have looked at bacterial and viral diseases. The lack of a clear culprit only deepened the mystery and the fear, heralding what some greens call a “second silent spring,” a reference to Rachel Carson’s breakthrough 1962 book, which is widely credited with helping launch the environmental movement. A quote that’s often attributed to Albert Einstein became a slogan: “If the bee disappears from the surface of the globe, man would have no more than four years to live.”

One problem: experts doubt that Einstein ever said those words, but the misattribution is characteristic of the confusion that surrounds the disappearance of the bees, the sense that we’re inadvertently killing a species that we’ve tended and depended on for thousands of years. The loss of the honeybees would leave the planet poorer and hungrier, but what’s really scary is the fear that bees may be a sign of what’s to come, a symbol that something is deeply wrong with the world around us. “If we don’t make some changes soon, we’re going to see disaster,” says Tom Theobald, a beekeeper in Colorado. “The bees are just the beginning.”

Sublethal Effects

If the honeybee is a victim of natural menaces like viruses and unnatural ones like pesticides, it’s worth remembering that the bee itself is not a natural resident of the continent. It was imported to North America in the 17th century, and it thrived until recently because it found a perfect niche in a food system that demands crops at ever cheaper prices and in ever greater quantities. That’s a man-made, mercantile ecosystem that not only has been good for the bees and beekeepers but also has meant steady business and big revenue for supermarkets and grocery stores.

Jim Doan has been keeping bees since the age of 5, but the apiary genes in his family go back even further. Doan’s father paid his way to college with the proceeds of his part-time beekeeping, and in 1973 he left the bond business to tend bees full time. Bees are even in the Doan family’s English coat of arms. Although Jim went to college with the aim of becoming an agriculture teacher, the pull of the beekeeping business was too great.

For a long time, that business was very good. The family built up its operation in the town of Hamlin, in western New York, making money from honey and from pollination contracts with farmers. At the peak of his business, Doan estimates he was responsible for pollinating 1 out of 10 apples grown in New York, running nearly 6,000 hives, one of the biggest such operations in the state. He didn’t mind the inevitable stings–“you have to be willing to be punished”–and he could endure the early hours. “We made a lot of honey, and we made a lot of money,” he says.

All that ended in 2006, the year CCD hit the mainstream, and Doan’s hives weren’t spared. That winter, when he popped the covers to check on his bees–tipped off by a fellow beekeeper who experienced one of the first documented cases of CCD–Doan found nothing. “There were hundreds of hives in the backyard and no bees in them,” he says. In the years since, he has experienced repeated losses, his bees growing sick and dying. To replace lost hives, Doan needs to buy new queens and split his remaining colonies, which reduces honey production and puts more pressure on his few remaining healthy bees. Eventually it all became unsustainable. In 2013, after decades in the business, Doan gave up. He sold the 112 acres (45 hectares) he owns–land he had been saving to sell after his retirement–and plans to sell his beekeeping equipment as well, provided he can find someone to buy it. Doan is still keeping some bees in the meantime, maintaining a revenue stream while considering his options. Those options include a job at Walmart.

Doan and I walk through his backyard, which is piled high with bee boxes that would resemble filing cabinets, if filing cabinets hummed and vibrated. Doan lends me a protective jacket and a bee veil that covers my face. He walks slowly among the boxes–partly because he’s a big guy and partly because bees don’t appreciate fast moves–and he spreads smoke in advance, which masks the bees’ alarm pheromones and keeps them calm. He opens each box and removes a few frames–the narrowly spaced scaffolds on which the bees build their honeycombs–checking to see how a new population he imported from Florida is doing. Some frames are choked with crawling bees, flowing honey and healthy brood cells, each of which contains an infant bee. But other frames seem abandoned, even the wax in the honeycomb crumbling. Doan lays these boxes–known as dead-outs–on their side.

He used to love checking on his bees. “Now it’s gotten to the point where I look at the bees every few weeks, and it scares me,” he says. “Will it be a good day, will they be alive, or will I just find a whole lot of junk? It depresses the hell out of me.”

Doan’s not alone in walking away from such unhappy work. The number of commercial beekeepers has dropped by some three-quarters over the past 15 years, and while all of them may agree that the struggle is just not worth it anymore, they differ on which of the possible causes is most to blame. Doan has settled on the neonicotinoid pesticides–and there’s a strong case to be made against them.

The chemicals are used on more than 140 different crops as well as in home gardens, meaning endless chances of exposure for any insect that alights on the treated plants. Doan shows me studies of pollen samples taken from his hives that indicate the presence of dozens of chemicals, including the neonicotinoids. He has testified before Congress about the danger the chemicals pose and is involved in a lawsuit with other beekeepers and with green groups that calls on the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to suspend a pair of pesticides in the neonicotinoid class. “The impacts [from the pesticides] are not marginal, and they’re not academic,” says Peter Jenkins, a lawyer for the Center for Food Safety and a lead counsel in the suit. “They pose real threats to the viability of pollinators.”

American farmers have been dousing their fields with pesticides for decades, meaning that honeybees–which can fly as far as 5 miles (8 km) in search of forage–have been exposed to toxins since well before the dawn of CCD. But neonicotinoids, which were introduced in the mid-1990s and became widespread in the years that followed, are different. The chemicals are known as systematics, which means that seeds are soaked in them before they’re planted. Traces of the chemicals are eventually passed on to every part of the mature plant–including the pollen and nectar a bee might come into contact with–and can remain for much longer than other pesticides do. There’s really no way to prevent bees from being exposed to some level of neonicotinoids if the pesticides have been used nearby. “We have growing evidence that neonicotinoids can have dangerous effects, especially in conjunction with other pathogens,” says Peter Neumann, head of the Institute of Bee Health at the University of Bern in Switzerland.

Ironically, neonicotinoids are actually safer for farmworkers because they can be applied more precisely than older classes of pesticides, which disperse into the air. Bees, however, seem uniquely sensitive to the chemicals. Studies have shown that neonicotinoids attack their nervous system, interfering with their flying and navigation abilities without killing them immediately. “The scientific literature is exploding now with work on sublethal impacts on bees,” says James Frazier, an entomologist at Penn State University. The delayed but cumulative effects of repeated exposure might explain why colonies keep dying off year after year despite beekeepers’ best efforts. It’s as if the bees were being poisoned very slowly.

It’s undeniably attractive to blame the honeybee crisis on neonicotinoids. The widespread adoption of these pesticides roughly corresponds to the spike in colony loss, and neonicotinoids are, after all, meant to kill insects. Chemicals are ubiquitous–a recent study found that honeybee pollen was contaminated, on average, with nine different pesticides and fungicides. Best of all, if the problem is neonicotinoids, the solution is simple: ban them. That’s what the European Commission decided to do this year, putting a two-year restriction on the use of some neonicotinoids. But while the EPA is planning to review neonicotinoids, a European-style ban is unlikely–in part because the evidence is still unclear. Beekeepers in Australia have been largely spared from CCD even though neonicotinoids are used there, while France has continued to suffer bee losses despite restricting the use of the pesticides since 1999. Pesticide makers argue that actual levels of neonicotinoid exposure in the field are too low to be the main culprit in colony loss. “We’ve dealt with insecticides for a long time,” says Randy Oliver, a beekeeper who has done independent research on CCD. “I’m not thoroughly convinced this is a major issue.”

Hostile Terrain

Even if pesticides are a big part of the bee-death mystery, there are other suspects. Beekeepers have always had to protect their charges from dangers such as the American foulbrood–a bacterial disease that kills developing bees–and the small hive beetle, a pest that can infiltrate and contaminate colonies. Bloodiest of all is the multidecade war against the Varroa destructor, a microscopic mite that burrows into the brood cells that host baby bees. The mites are equipped with a sharp, two-pronged tongue that can pierce a bee’s exoskeleton and suck its hemolymph–the fluid that serves as blood in bees. And since the Varroa can also spread a number of other diseases–they’re the bee equivalent of a dirty hypodermic needle–an uncontrolled mite infestation can quickly lead to a dying hive.

The Varroa first surfaced in the U.S. in 1987–likely from infected bees imported from South America–and it has killed billions of bees since. Countermeasures used by beekeepers, including chemical miticides, have proved only partly effective. “When the Varroa mite made its way in, it changed what we had to do,” says Jerry Hayes, who heads Monsanto’s commercial bee work. “It’s not easy to try to kill a little bug on a big bug.”

Other researchers have pointed a finger at fungal infections like the parasite Nosema ceranae, possibly in league with a pathogen like the invertebrate iridescent virus. But again, the evidence isn’t conclusive: some CCD-afflicted hives show evidence of fungi or mites or viruses, and others don’t. Some beekeepers are skeptical that there’s an underlying problem at all, preferring to blame CCD on what they call PPB–piss-poor beekeeping, a failure of beekeepers to stay on top of colony health. But while not every major beekeeper has suffered catastrophic loss, colony failures have been widespread for long enough that it seems perverse to blame the human victims. “I’ve been keeping bees for decades,” says Doan. “It’s not like I suddenly forgot how to do it in 2006.”

There’s also the simple fact that beekeepers live in a country that is becoming inhospitable to honeybees. To survive, bees need forage, which means flowers and wild spaces. Our industrialized agricultural system has conspired against that, transforming the countryside into vast stretches of crop monocultures–factory fields of corn or soybeans that are little more than a desert for honeybees starved of pollen and nectar. Under the Conservation Reserve Program (CRP), the government rents land from farmers and sets it aside, taking it out of production to conserve soil and preserve wildlife. But as prices of commodity crops like corn and soybeans have skyrocketed, farmers have found that they can make much more money planting on even marginal land than they can from the CRP rentals. This year, just 25.3 million acres (10.2 million hectares) will be held in the CRP, down by one-third from the peak in 2007 and the smallest area in reserve since 1988.

Lonely Spring

For all the enemies that are massing against honeybees, a bee-pocalypse isn’t quite upon us yet. Even with the high rates of annual loss, the number of managed honeybee colonies in the U.S. has stayed stable over the past 15 years, at about 2.5 million. That’s still significantly down from the 5.8 million colonies that were kept in 1946, but that shift had more to do with competition from cheap imported honey and the general rural depopulation of the U.S. over the past half-century. (The number of farms in the U.S. fell from a peak of 6.8 million in 1935 to just 2.2 million today, even as food production has ballooned.) Honeybees have a remarkable ability to regenerate, and year after year the beekeepers who remain have been able to regrow their stocks after a bad loss. But the burden on beekeepers is becoming unbearable. Since 2006 an estimated 10 million beehives have been lost, at a cost of some $2 billion. “We can replace the bees, but we can’t replace beekeepers with 40 years of experience,” says Tim Tucker, the vice president of the American Beekeeping Federation.

As valuable as honeybees are, the food system wouldn’t collapse without them. The backbone of the world’s diet–grains like corn, wheat and rice–is self-pollinating. But our dinner plates would be far less colorful, not to mention far less nutritious, without blueberries, cherries, watermelons, lettuce and the scores of other plants that would be challenging to raise commercially without honeybee pollination. There could be replacements. In southwest China, where wild bees have all but died out thanks to massive pesticide use, farmers laboriously hand-pollinate pear and apple trees with brushes. Scientists at Harvard are experimenting with tiny robobees that might one day be able to pollinate autonomously. But right now, neither solution is technically or economically feasible. The government could do its part by placing tighter regulations on the use of all pesticides, especially during planting season. There needs to be more support for the CRP too to break up the crop monocultures that are suffocating honeybees. One way we can all help is by planting bee-friendly flowers in backyard gardens and keeping them free of pesticides. The country, says Dennis vanEngelsdorp, a research scientist at the University of Maryland who has studied CCD since it first emerged, is suffering from a “nature deficit disorder”–and the bees are paying the price.

But the reality is that barring a major change in the way the U.S. grows food, the pressure on honeybees won’t subside. There are more than 1,200 pesticides currently registered for use in the U.S.; nobody pretends that number will be coming down by a lot. Instead, the honeybee and its various pests are more likely to be changed to fit into the existing agricultural system. Monsanto is working on an RNA-interference technology that can kill the Varroa mite by disrupting the way its genes are expressed. The result would be a species-specific self-destruct mechanism–a much better alternative than the toxic and often ineffective miticides beekeepers have been forced to use. Meanwhile, researchers at Washington State University are developing what will probably be the world’s smallest sperm bank–a bee-genome repository that will be used to crossbreed a more resilient honeybee from the 28 recognized subspecies of the insect around the world.

Already, commercial beekeepers have adjusted to the threats facing their charges by spending more to provide supplemental feed to their colonies. Supplemental feed raises costs, and some scientists worry that replacing honey with sugar or corn syrup can leave bees less capable of fighting off infections. But beekeepers living adrift in a nutritional wasteland have little choice. The beekeeping business may well begin to resemble the industrial farming industry it works with: fewer beekeepers running larger operations that produce enough revenue to pay for the equipment and technologies needed to stay ahead of an increasingly hostile environment. “Bees may end up managed like cattle, pigs and chicken, where we put them in confinement and bring the food to them,” says Oliver, the beekeeper and independent researcher. “You could do feedlot beekeeping.”

That’s something no one in the beekeeping world wants to see. But it may be the only way to keep honeybees going. And as long as there are almonds, apples, apricots and scores of other fruits and vegetables that need pollinating–and farmers willing to pay for the service–beekeepers will find a way.

So if the honeybee survives, it likely won’t resemble what we’ve known for centuries. But it could be worse. For all the recent attention on the commercial honeybee, wild bees are in far worse shape. In June, after a landscaping company sprayed insecticide on trees, 50,000 wild bumblebees in Oregon were killed–the largest such mass poisoning on record. Unlike the honeybee, the bumblebee has no human caretakers. Globally, up to 100,000 animal species die off each year–nearly every one of them without fanfare or notice. This is what happens when one species–that would be us–becomes so widespread and so dominant that it crowds out almost everything else. It won’t be a second silent spring that dawns; we’ll still have the buzz of the feedlot honeybee in our ears. But humans and our handful of preferred species may find that all of our seasons have become lonelier ones.


From TIME Magazine:

PHOTOS: The Bee, Magnified: Microscopic Photography

MORE: The Origins of Nine Bee-Inspired Sayings

MORE: The Trouble with Beekeeping in the Anthropocene

Working Together

Monday, August 5th, 2013

Wise woman Ellen Brown tells that we do have options.


The Public Bank Solution: San Francisco

Ellen Brown

When the Occupiers took an interest in moving San Francisco’s money into a city-owned bank in 2011, it was chiefly on principle, in sympathy with the nationwide Move Your Money campaign. But recent scandals have transformed the move from a political statement into a matter of protecting the city’s deposits and reducing its debt burden. The chief roadblock to forming a municipal bank has been the concern that it was not allowed under state law, but a legal opinion issued by Deputy City Attorney Thomas J. Owen has now overcome that obstacle.

Establishing a city-owned San Francisco Bank is not a new idea. According to City Supervisor John Avalos, speaking at the Public Banking Institute conference in San Rafael in June, it has been on the table for over a decade. Recent interest was spurred by the Occupy movement, which adopted the proposal after Avalos presented it to an enthusiastic group of over 1,000 protesters outside the Bank of America building in late 2011. David Weidner, writing in The Wall Street Journal in December of that year, called it “the boldest institutional stroke yet against banks targeted by the Occupy movement.” But Weidner conceded that:

“Creating a municipal bank won’t be easy. California law forbids using taxpayer money to make private loans. That would have to be changed. Critics also argue that San Francisco could be putting taxpayer money at risk.”

The law in question was California Government Code Section 23007, which prohibits a county from “giv[ing] or loan[ing] its credit to or in aid of any person or corporation.” The section has been interpreted as barring cities and counties from establishing municipal banks. But Deputy City Attorney Thomas J. Owen has now put that issue to rest in a written memorandum dated June 21, 2013, in which he states:

“1. A court would likely conclude that Section 23007 does not cover San Francisco because the City is a chartered city and county. Similarly, a court would likely conclude that Article XVI, section 6 of the State Constitution, which limits the power of the State Legislature to give or lend the credit of cities or counties, does not apply to the City. . . . [A] court would likely then determine that neither those laws nor the general limitations on expending City funds for a municipal purpose bar the City from establishing a municipal bank.2. A court would likely conclude that the City may own stock in a municipal bank and
spend City money to support the bank’s operation, if the City appropriated funds for that purpose and the operation of the bank served a legitimate municipal purpose.”

A number of other California cities that have explored forming their own banks are also affected by this opinion. As of June 2008, 112 of California’s 478 cities are charter cities, including not only San Francisco but Los Angeles, Richmond, Oakland and Berkeley. A charter city is one governed by its own charter document rather than by local, state or national laws.

Which Is Riskier, a Public Bank or a Wall Street Bank?

That leaves the question whether a publicly-owned bank would put taxpayer money at risk. The Bank of North Dakota, the nation’s only state-owned bank, has posed no risk to depositors or the state’s taxpayers in nearly a century of successful operation. Further, in this latest recession it has helped the state achieve a nationwide low in unemployment (3.2 percent) and the only budget surplus in the country.

Meanwhile, the recent wave of bank scandals has shifted the focus to whether local governments can afford to risk keeping their funds in Wall Street banks.

In making investment decisions, cities are required by state law to prioritize security, liquidity and yield, in that order. The city of San Francisco moves between $10 billion and $12 billion through 133 bank accounts in roughly five million transactions every year; and its deposits are held chiefly at three banks, Bank of America, Wells Fargo and Union Bank. The city pays $2.7 million for banking services, nearly two-thirds of which consist of transaction fees that smaller banks and credit unions would not impose. But the city cannot use those smaller banks as depositories because the banks cannot afford the collateral necessary to protect deposits above $250,000, the FDIC insurance limit.

San Francisco and other cities and counties are losing more than just transaction fees to Wall Street. Weidner pointed to the $100 billion that the California pension funds lost as a result of Wall Street malfeasance in 2008; the foreclosures that have wrought havoc on communities and tax revenues; and the liar loans that have negatively impacted not only real estate values but the economy, employment and local and state budgets. Added to that, we now have the LIBOR and municipal debt auction riggings and the Cyprus bail-in threat.

On July 23, 2013, Sacramento County filed a major lawsuit against Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and other mega-banks for manipulating LIBOR rates, a fraud that has imposed huge losses on local governments in ill-advised interest-rate swaps. Sacramento is the 15th government agency in California to sue on the LIBOR rigging, which Rolling Stone‘s Matt Taibbi calls “the biggest price-fixing scandal ever.” Other counties in the Bay Area that are suing on the LIBOR fraud are Sonoma and San Mateo, and the city of Richmond sued in January. Last year, Bank of America and other major banks were also caught rigging municipal debt service auctions, for which they had to pay $673 million in restitution.

The question is, do taxpayers want to have their public monies in a bank that has been proven to be defrauding them?

Compounding the risk is the reason Cyprus “bail in” shocker, in which depositor funds were confiscated to recapitalize two bankrupt Cypriot banks. Dodd-Frank now replaces taxpayer-funded bank bailouts with consumer-funded bail-ins, which can force shareholders, bondholders and depositors to contribute to the cost of bank failure. Europe is negotiating rules imposing bail-ins for failed banks, and the FDIC has a U.S. advisory to that effect. Bank of America now commingles its $1 trillion in deposits with over $70 trillion in risky derivatives, and has been pegged as one of the next banks likely to fail in a major gambling mishap.

San Francisco and other local governments have far more than $250,000 on deposit, so they are only marginally protected by the FDIC insurance fund. Their protection is as secured creditors with a claim on bank collateral. The problem is that in a bank bankruptcy, state and local governments will fall in line behind the derivative claimants, which are also secured creditors and now have “super-priority” in bankruptcy. In a major derivatives calamity of the sort requiring a $700 billion bailout in September 2008, there is liable to be little collateral left for either the other secured depositors or the FDIC, which has a meager $25 billion in its insurance fund. Normally, the FDIC would be backstopped by the Treasury — meaning the taxpayers — but Dodd-Frank now bars taxpayer bailouts of bank bankruptcies caused by the majority of speculative derivative losses.

The question today is whether cities and counties can afford not to set up their own municipal banks, both to protect their money from confiscation and to take advantage of the very low interest rates and other perks available exclusively to the banking club. A government that owns its own bank can keep the interest and reinvest it locally, resulting in government savings of an estimated 35 percent to 40 percent just in interest. Costs can be reduced, and taxes can be cut or services can be increased. Banking and credit can become public utilities, sustaining the local economy rather than mining it for private gain; and banks can again become safe places to store our money.


Ellen Brown

Ellen Brown developed her research skills as an attorney practicing civil litigation in Los Angeles. She turns those skills to an analysis of the Federal Reserve and “the money trust.” She shows how this private cartel has usurped the power to create money from the people themselves, and how we the people can get it back. She is president of the Public Banking Institute, http://PublicBankingInstitute.org, and has websites at http://www.publicbanksolution.comhttp://WebofDebt.com and http://EllenBrown.com.

Read her newest book: The Public Bank Solution: From Austerity to Prosperity

Working Together

Monday, June 24th, 2013

This morning’s author examines the role of electric cars in our human future.


Are Electric Cars the Future?

Donald B. Halcom, Ph.D.

The automobile industry is undergoing a revolution. This is about the new Tesla Model S and Nissan Leaf all electric automobiles. I thought it would be interesting to estimate some of their impacts upon the future. These calculations are exaggerated but make some strong points.

Example Current Data

Current registered automobiles in California = 22,083,049 (I picked this state as the example.)

Current Total Electric Power production capacity in California = 69,709 megawatts

Tesla Model S Super Charger = 120 kilowatts (fully charge a Tesla Model S in about two hours). The current lithium-ion batteries overheat if charged too fast.  Longer charging times mean that fewer Tesla’s can be serviced per day.

Calculation for the Tesla Model S

A back calculation is as follows:

California Total Electric Power = 69.7 gigawatts = 69.7 E 9 watts

Tesla Super Charger 120 kilowatts = 12 E 4 watts

Maximum Total Charging Units Equivalent = 69.7 E9 / 12 E 4 = 5.808 E 5 Tesla Super Chargers

This equals 5.808 E 4 Charging Stations with ten super chargers per station or 58,000 charging stations in the state of California. How many Tesla Model S electric cars can the state’s electric system support? Assume that 8.33 % (2 hours out of 24 hours per day) of all of the Tesla’s are being fully charged every day. What is the absolute maximum number of Tesla’s that California could support? This number is:

5.808 E 5 / 0.0833 = 6,972,389 Tesla’s or 32% of the total registered automobiles currently in California.

This is the equivalent of one full charge per day for 6,972,389 Tesla’s. These Tesla’s could only travel about 250 miles per day. The power rating for the Tesla is about 350 hp.  There would be no electricity to power the rest of California. This electric car will not solve our problems. This car was given a rating of 99 by Consumer Reports. Why? The last thing that this planet needs is another set of 350 hp cars. The design of this car was aimed at wealthy people with no appreciation for the reality of charging them. Citizens of the USA still tend to be short sighted. In the not too distant future, we will all realize the planet will flat run out of fossil fuels. At that point, about 100 hp electric cars will be practical but not 350 hp monsters. Power mad drivers should go forth and have chariot races.

Some will consider these calculations to be absolutely absurd. Why would the population of the entire state of California ever drive only the Tesla Model S? They would not.

The world tends to run on peer pressure and in it, bigger and faster equals better. The pressure is to drive Mercedes, BMW, Lincoln, Lexus, Cadillac, Corvette and the list goes on. These are not 100 hp cars. They are all like the 350 hp Tesla. Even the smaller current cars are more than 100 hp (e.g. Civic, VW, etc.). The new Nissan Leaf all electric car is 110 hp. Notice that the examples used in these calculations are based upon one current constant amount of electric power generation for California. There must be a constant reference point in order to make consistent calculations.

Calculation for the Nissan Leaf Electric Car

The data for the Nissan Leaf electric car indicates that using a 240 volt home charging unit, the power draw is 5.2 kilowatts and the full charge time is 8 hours. This full charge time is 33.33 percent of a day for each car. For the Nissan Leaf:

Total California Charging Units Equivalent = 69.7 E9 / 5.2 E3 = 13,403,846 Nissan Leaf chargers

13.4 E6 / 0.3333 = 40,200,000. This is the absolute maximum number of Nissan Leaf electric cars currently possible in California using one charge per day.

This is 182% of the current cars in California. Each Nissan Leaf could travel about 84 miles per day. This distance is significantly less than the Tesla but there could be far more Nissan Leaf electric cars than Tesla electric cars. . You can drive about six 100 hp electric cars for the energy consumption of one 350 hp electric car.

My vote is for something like the Nissan Leaf and not the Tesla. In the future, all long distance travel would have to be by mass transit. Electric cars would be limited to local travel. Electric trains could supply the mass transportation and some freight transportation.

Our current Interstate Highways would be limited mostly to trucks burning BioDiesel fuel. We must all change our current thought processes in order to survive a drastically different future. Global warming is not our only dilemma for the future. Replacing the energy from the depleted fossil fuels represents, in my opinion, an even greater threat. These things cannot be done overnight. It will take decades. We must choose wisely and begin now.


Don Halcom has a Ph.D in Chemical Engineering. He is in his mid-70s, and retired.  He is available to respond to any follow up questions you may have. You can reach him here: drdon (dot) halcom (at) verizon (dot) net

You can four earlier essays of his here: Future Energy: The Nuclear Fission OptionThe Re-Creation, The Return to Feudalism, What Makes You Think We Can Grow Out of This?

Working Together

Friday, May 31st, 2013

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The Egret in Me

Judy Wilken, MS

A coastal marsh is not the place for an artist to set up as an artist; the easel, the canvas, the box full of oils, the palette. Too many pieces. “So many brushes. I could fill a quiver,” Mary said as she reached into her pigment box on the back seat of her car and pulled out a few promising brushes. As she stepped carefully into the marsh, she scolded it. “Oh no! Too slippery. Too wet. Too soft.” She felt a gust of Santa Ana wind swirl around her causing her to grab her hat just as it was leaving her head. She began balancing herself, shifting her weight from one mud boot to the other as she carefully stepped through the mud. “He was standing right here yesterday. Did he leave already?” She asked some fairy shrimp that were swimming on their backs in a pool of marsh water. “Where is he?” She looked all around the marsh before spotting him just beyond a mound of hardstem bulrush.

“There he is,” Mary lowered the legs of her easel into the mud, set her palette on it and began preparing for her first ever stopover with a seabird. I’m going to go for red. He has to stand out. Maybe a bit of purplish-blue for the shadow, she thought to herself. She squeezed out clumps of wet pigment, as big as frog heads, onto her palette. “I hope two tubes of white is enough,” she told the egret. You are not a small bird. Forty one inches tall? Just think about that for a moment. Forty one inches tall and a wingspan of five feet. That is the armspan of a six foot man.” A sunflower yellow for his toothless bill and some black for the eyes and legs should be all she needed. Her brushes were paramount for this one work. Large ones? Full? No, not full. Yes, large. “Feathers are what will regulate every mile of his free flight. I will need two of my priceless Kolinskies, and my long handled raggedy Filberts; a round one too for the shadow. And it is perfect for the eyes and legs as well, she decided.  “Oh, and the Brights!” She set all the brushes on top of her easel just below her canvas, pulled out her favorite rags from her pigment box before taking a long and dutiful look at the egret.

He was standing upright on one leg, tall and as still as a cattail. He was just fifteen feet away and was staring straight at her. Mary stood still, not as still as he, balancing herself in the slippery mud. They looked at one another for the longest time. A gust of Santa Ana wind slipped through the legs of her easel as she began layering her canvas with short quick strokes of her “stand-out” red pigment. Whenever she looked up at the egret she saw his feathers whipping about in chaotic swirls. Long, wispy feathers were rising up off his body swirling above his head and away from his chest. Silky feathers were blowing every which way revealing a layer of comfort-white down next to his skin. It looks as if some cosmic hairdryer is blowing his feathers, Mary thought to herself.  “You’re just lucky you are not standing on a stump,” she told him. The egret’s head looked like a lop-sided brush with raggedy feathers all on one side. “How could we get so lucky,” Mary asked the egret. “The Santa Anas are perfect for your feathers. Wild.” As she worked, Mary noticed a definite but distant rhythm to her rapid brushtrokes. Boom, boomboom. Boom, boomboom. Boom, boomboom.

Mary’s plan was to create a ceremonial wispiness – all virgin white, to the feathers that were being blown about on top of the egret’s head. No pigment would be needed on the brush for these feathers. His chest feathers were an entirely different story. Her strokes had to be long like a glide. And quick like in soaring, giving these feathers a powerful but “plumey look” –she thought. The wind-blowing freedom of the Santa Anas kept up as she continued to fill the canvas in red until it looked like it couldn’t hold another drop. “That’s it!” she said out loud.

Hot Toddy by Mary Kay KingNow, he will stand out, Mary thought to herself while watching the red canvas glisten in the sunlight. She filled her favorite round brush with her white and began creating the boundary of the egret’s body, fleshing out a large oval shape at first. “I have to get the nose to tail,” she said as she pulled some of the wet white pigment up, up, and up, at least a full three feet, on the canvas creating a long vertical line for his neck. “Any water snake could slip down that neck,” she told the egret. Perfect, she thought. More pigment went on top of the wet line and she saw his head, his whole face in her mind for the first time. Nose to tail, she reminded herself. A wingspan of five feet lifting only two pounds? She marveled. “I’ve got boxes of chocolates heavier than you,” she chuckled to herself. When she looked again she noticed the feathers on the right side of his body were quiet. She began brushing in his purplish-blue shadow on his quiet side with one of her Brights. It extended from his nose and shadowed him all the way down to his tail. The smallest round brush she loaded with black pigment. Two black eyes she painted, one on each side of his head. Then, the “straight as an arrow” bill in yellow. She painted his spindly legs a mud-black. “My god, they’re like black, hinged toothpicks,” she thought. They were as narrow as the blades of the narrowleaf cattails just twenty five feet away. After the last few strokes of yellow for his “get a load of those feet”, she looked over at the egret and said, “You look like you’re lost on a wind farm.”

Mary picked up her long handled raggedy brush planning on feathering out a distinct look for the egret’s main gliding and soaring feathers with its bristles. She knew that the tips of the bristles could do all the work. They are perfect for pulling the pigment out from his chest with just a few strokes, she thought. “That five foot wingspan has got to be something of an event,” she told the egret. She began building his “gliding” feathers slowly, long strokes piled on top of one another, slightly angled toward his foie gras. By making each stroke a little shorter than the previous one, she could fluff up his wing space until you were sure that that wingspan was very possible. “Such a perfect wind. You’re crazy with feathers. I can’t believe it.” Mary told the egret.

As she was gently brushing in some grey splashes giving the wings some depth, Mary leaned away from the canvas and got caught in a quick gust of wind causing her to shift her weight once again from one mud boot to the other. She steadied her body with legs a few feet apart while she studied the egret’s “canvas” head. Instantly, she decided to add what was glaringly missing. “A spot of red in that eye. Of course. How could I not see that?” She took her round sable brush, just barely touched it to a tiny smudge of red pigment on her palette then leaned toward the egret’s left “canvas” eye. With a steady hand she lowered the brush into the black eye and watched a red spot spread into it. “Red blood in there. Life in there,” she whispered to herself. Suddenly, she felt the hairs of her brush move, pulse just once while inside the black. She stared at the “canvas” eye, keeping the bristles in the red spot. She felt another pulse run up her brush and into her arm. She kept the bristles in the black and slightly leaned away from the canvas, somewhat startled by what she just felt. What did I feel? she asked herself. “Oneness,” she said outloud.

“Oneness.”

It felt like she was feeling not a diminished thing, but was feeling life. What if I am feeling something truly divine– a gift? A gift –alive — now unlocked, Mary thought.

Mary squinted at the egret, who by now, was standing on two legs and had a bill full of his kind of caviar, fairy shrimp. Things had changed. Things weren’t the same now as they were just moments ago. After a long pause, Mary announced to him, “The egret in me must speak to the egret in you,” She withdrew the brush from the “canvas” eye and began telling the egret her story.

“All my strokes on this canvas are ‘stopover’strokes. That’s because you are at a “stopover” during your spring migration north. You are now in the largest energy event of your lifetime. You need to fatten up for all the chores you are about to own. Mating, building a nest and rearing young before you all return south have consequences.

“This is the most important, probably the first, community building event you have ever been part of. The fairy shrimp help you build strong feathers which are the primary regulators of your journey. Frogs, lizards and snakes give a perfect nutritional balance during this time. Their energy becomes your energy so you can fly thousands of miles north. Build your own nest. Mate. Care for your chicks, then return south. Every migration demands that you surrender to life and become social, you become part of a community and live in the wondrous living economic system that is unique to Earth.”

The egret dipped his head into and out of the marsh water as Mary continued telling her story. “Energy is circulating through your feathers just as it is circulating through my body. It is circulating through all 11 pairs of legs of each one of those fairy shrimp you are eating. It circulates through all life. Your DNA and my DNA, all of our DNA, sheds patterns of photons of light. We came from light, you, the fairy shrimp and I. Your pattern of pulses is the “egret pattern” while my pattern of pulses is the “human pattern.” And the shrimp pattern of pulses is the “fairy shrimp pattern.” Her eyes never left the egret’s body. “To put it more correctly, I should say we ‘borrowed light’, whether while in an egg or a uterus. You ‘borrowed light’ so you can live and I ‘borrowed light’ so I can live, and the fairy shrimp ‘borrowed light’ so they can live. We are the players in the energy economy of communal life.

“As players, we exchange spirits, exchange a sense of communion during every moment we are living. Out of this exchange we must become guardians of one another. You and the fairy shrimp inform us humans of the health of our wetlands and oceans and we must monitor our behavior so as not to threaten your habitat. You and the shrimp are our bio-indicators of the health of coastal wetlands and oceans. And we must be your bio-indicator, your guardian, for the health of your habitat. You connect with us while you are flying, eating fairy shrimp or munching on frogs, fish, and swallowing snakes. And we must connect with you by creating sustainable wetlands and oceans. You and I, we must dine and play in the communal economics of life.” As Mary took her eyes off of the egret and looked back onto her canvas she recalled the lines of a Hafiz poem she had read years ago.

Let’s turn loose our golden falcons

So that they can meet in the sky

Where our spirits belong

Necking like two

Hot Kids

A cluster of Santa Ana gusts continued to whip up around the egret’s silky feathers once again revealing his layer of comfort-down next to his skin. Mary grabbed at her hat as it was leaving her head, looked at the egret and told him, “I know what I am going to title this work. I am going to call this piece HOT TODDY.” The egret was standing on one leg again while Mary packed up her pieces and walked through the slippery, wet marsh mud to her van. She turned around to look at the egret one last time. He was gone. Mary looked up into the sky and saw a five foot white event, the egret’s wingspan, circling above. “See you next time, Hot Toddy!”

 


Essay by Judy Wilken, MS of StarChild Science. Judy was inspired by Deep Spirit by Dr. Christian de Quincey

“Hot Toddy” from Egret Series by Mary Kay King, Carmel, California. Her artwork can be viewed at the following galleries:

Amphora, Carmel, Sixth and San Carlos Carmel, Ca. 831 624 3420
Venture Gallery, Portola Hotel and Spa, Monterey, Ca. 831-372-6279
The Red Pear Gallery, Carmel Valley Village, Ca. 831-659-5568.

Working Together

Monday, April 15th, 2013

This morning’s author is a chemical engineer with nearly 50 years of experience. His article is a more technical paper than usual for CommUnity of Minds, but the topic addressed is an important one for humanity’s future.

His conclusion after a careful analysis is that Nuclear Energy obtained by fission is significantly limited. In the best case scenario, it could provide only 28% of power we need for our current energy demand. It could supply this power for a maximum of 1,724 years.

This is a significant energy resource, but it does not solve our energy crisis; and it brings with it, many environmental and security problems. The details follow:


Future Energy: The Nuclear Fission Option

Donald B. Halcom

Gertrude Stein once said, “A rose, is a rose, is a rose”. Paraphrasing the old girl, “A Neutron, is a Neutron, is a Neutron” and “A Joule, is a Joule, is a Joule”.

On this planet there is only one naturally occurring fissile element and that is Uranium 235 (U235). Mankind has learned how to make two new fissile elements and these are Uranium 233 (U233) and Plutonium 239 (Pu239). Both of these manmade elements are made by “neutron capture” from the fission of a fissile element (e.g. U235) followed by the spontaneous neutron beta minus decay to form new fissile elements. U238 is converted to Pu239 and Thorium 232 (Th232) is converted to Uranium 233 (U233). Observe that one must sacrifice one fissionable material to make another fissionable material. There is no free lunch. U238 and Th232 are called “fertile” elements. Notice the “odd” and “even” relationships.

The starting amount of U235 initially present and the amounts of U233 and Pu239 that can be formed are of primary interest to mankind. Our future, in part, depends upon them. Electric power generation will be highly influenced by the finite amounts of these fissile materials. Mankind keeps demanding ever increasing amounts of electricity. The purpose of this analysis is to estimate how long “nuclear” materials can supply such power.

Inventory Time

Figure One shows the availability of Uranium on the planet (this Uranium contains 0.72% U235 and the rest is U238).

http://synearth.net/imgs/Available_Uranium.png

As of 2011 there is about 7.3E6 metric tons of recoverable Uranium on the planet. Notice how the price of Uranium recovery is “sky rocketing”. The harder it is to find the greater the expense to harvest.

With 0.72% U235 in the 7.3E6 metric tons of Uranium for 2011, we get:

U235                        5.26 E4 metric tons (fissile) = 52,600 metric tons

U238                        7.25 E6 metric tons (fertile)

Th232                      2.81 E6 metric tons (another fertile element)

Th232/U235 = 53.4 There is much more thorium than U235.

U238/U235 = 143.7 There is even more U238 than Th232.

As you can see the element that is the most crucial is the least available. Everything depends on this element.

Fuel Recovery

The spent nuclear fuel as of 2009 is:

Spent fuel                               2.4 E5 metric tons with 0.8% U235 and 1.2% Pu239 (240,000 metric tons)

U235 (0.8%)                          1,920 metric tons

Pu239 (1.2%)                        2,880 metric tons

Here is the most crucial numbers I found on the internet:

Current world spent fuel rate = 10,500 metric tons/year

World number of Nuclear Reactors = 437 (these are mainly slow neutron light water reactors)

World total electric power from all reactors = 372,210 megawatts

As of now there are:

52,600 metric tons of virgin U235

1,920 metric tons of U235 in spent fuel

2,880 metric tons of Pu239 in spent fuel

500 metric tons of weapons grad Pu239

There is one quick way to check the above data for accuracy. This method involves “back calculation” from the megawatts of electricity (372,210 megawatts = 0.372 terawatts) generated by all of the light water nuclear plants on the planet. First, electrical generation from the heat of a nuclear reactor is limited by the entropy of the process. In the real world, one cannot take “random” heat and produce “ordered” electricity without paying a price. The efficiency of such a process is limited to about 34% based upon entropy. Simply stated, it takes 100 joules of thermal heat to produce 34 joules of electrical energy. Sorry folks but that is the way nature works. Now how much thermal energy do we have to spend the get 0.372 terawatts of yearly electrical energy? The answer is 0.372/0.34 = 1.094 terawatts.

Now 1 watt = 1 joule per second and there are 3.15572E7 seconds in a year. This means that we require the following amount of thermal energy in a year from nuclear fission to produce the required electricity.

1.094E12 watts X 3.15572E7 seconds = 3.453E19 joules

The people who know about nuclear fission have measured that for U235, the heat released is 7.28E13 joules per kilogram of reacted U235. How many kilograms of U235 is this? It is 3.453E19/7.28E13 = 474,313 kilograms or 474.3 metric tons of U235 that must disappear per year. Now the next time that someone asks you how much U235 is consumed to run a nuclear electric plant of some fixed capacity, you can tell them. It ain’t that complicated.

Now compare the number presented above with one that I will derive using 10,500 metric tons of spent fuel being generated per year. I did not make this number up, it was published in 2009. I computed the new numbers using more complicated calculations than I used to compute the above 474.3 metric tons per year. The agreement will be spectacular.

The Future

Assume:

The current spent fuel rate is equal to the current yearly feed rate of fresh fuel = 10,500 metric ton/yr.

Fresh fuel has a typical value of 4.5% U235.

Then:

Fresh Fuel In       (0.045X10,500) = 472.5 metric tons of U235/yr into the world’s current nuclear reactors.

Spent Fuel Out  (0.008X10,500) = 84.0 metric tons of U235/yr out of the world’s current reactors.

(0.012X10,500) = 126.0 metric tons of Pu239/yr out of the world’s current reactors

The future requires more than 437 plants, so assume a 5% compounded growth rate of similar plants.

Here is where the presentation gets more technical. I have developed an equation (that can be evaluated on a spreadsheet) to calculate how long the world can run its total number of nuclear plant before the world supply of U235 is exhausted.

I will present it as easily as possible:

Let:                           U235Zero = the starting VIRGIN reservoir of U235 in the world = 52,600 metric tons

U235Time = the amount in the reservoir at any time in metric tons

G = the compound growth rate as a fraction=0 (No growth) or 0.05 for 5% growth (or other rates).

DT = the nominal time scale = 1 year

ConsU235 = the yearly consumption rate of VIRGIN U235 in metric tons per year

^ = Exponent

Then:

U235Time = U235Zero – ConsU235 *DT* [1 + (1 + G) + (1 + G)^2 + (1 + G)^3 + (1 + G)^4 + ……   ]

To solve this equation set U235Time = 0 (this is when the fuel runs out), then:

U235Zero =  ConsU235 *DT* [1 + (1 + G) + (1 + G)^2 + (1 + G)^3 + (1 + G)^4 + ……   ]

Set:         Coeff = ConsU235 / U235Zero

This means that:  1 = Coeff * DT* [1 + (1 + G) + (1 + G)^2 + (1 + G)^3 + (1 + G)^4 + ……   ]

Remember that DT = 1 year

When the right side of the above equation reaches 1.00 then the VIRGIN U235 is exhausted.

I have created an Excel program that will solve the above equation in short order.

Calculation Results

This table shows the results from calculations for various conditions. Zero growth means no new plants.

Method

Growth %

ConsU235

U235 Exhaustion Time Years

No recycle U235

0

472.5

112

No recycle U235

5

472.5

39

Recycle U235

0

388.5

136

Recycle U235

5

388.5

42

The total spent fuel at the end of the exhaustion of all of the U235 would be about 1,428,000 metric tons yielding about 17,136 metric tons of Pu239. This is significantly less than the 52,600 metric tons of U235 currently in the ground. Current light water slow neutron nuclear plants are not long range solutions to the power requirements of the future. This recovered Pu239 plus weapons grade Pu239 could also be used in modified plants somewhere along the time line to extend the exhaustion time a little.

There are currently 437 nuclear plants. If we use 5% growth and recycle U235 then at the point of exhaustion the number of plants equals (1.05)^42 * 437 = 3392 plants of the current equivalent sizes. Sounds reasonable? The amount of power being generated at that point would be (1.05)^42 * 372,210 = 2.9E6 megawatts = 2.9 terawatts.

Remember when we were kids back in the late 40s, there was a Saturday morning children’s radio program called “Let’s Pretend”. Well let us return to that era and play Let’s Pretend.

Assume that we could instantly build 1,000 new Fast Neutron Breeder Reactor plants incorporating metallic U238 or Th232 (fertile). Assume that we use all of the current U235 and Pu239 (fissile) in the world in these 1,000 plants. Further assume that these plants have liquid sodium as coolant with electric power generation equal in every plant. Now in theory we can calculate the power generation by using the fissile fuel in all of the plants and dividing the result by 1,000 to get the power per plant. This is what we will do. Hey, this is Let’s Pretend.

Please examine the following titled “Plutonium Breeding Ratio”. Examine especially the part about “doubling time”. Doubling time is the time required to produce “new” fissile fuel equal to the quantity of consumed fissile fuel originally in the breeder reactor. It says that the target is to obtain this value after about ten years of operation. The word “target” means that it is not actually known whether this can be achieved or not. But hey, this is Let’s Pretend.

Plutonium Breeding Ratio

In the breeding of plutonium fuel in breeder reactors, an important concept is the breeding ratio, the amount of fissile plutonium-239 produced compared to the amount of fissionable fuel (like U-235) used to produce it. In the liquid-metal, fast-breeder reactor (LMFBR), the target breeding ratio is 1.4 but the results achieved have been about 1.2 . This is based on 2.4 neutrons produced per U-235 fission, with one neutron used to sustain the reaction.

The time required for a breeder reactor to produce enough material to fuel a second reactor is called its doubling time, and present design plans target about ten years as a doubling time. A reactor could use the heat of the reaction to produce energy for 10 years, and at the end of that time have enough fuel to fuel another reactor for 10 years.

Here are the data that we will need to do some more calculations. First of all, here is the world’s current consumption of energy. All of this concerns fast neutron breeder reactors with a replacement ratio equal to 1.0.

World’s Current Consumption of Energy = 16.4 Yearly Average terawatts = 5.18E20 joules/year. Includes nuclear, hydro, fossil fuels, solar, wind etc.

Total current fertile nuclear fuel:    U238 = 7,250,000 metric tons                                                                                                                                                                                 Th232 = 2,810,000 metric tons (will make U233)                                                                                 Total Fertile = 10,000,000 metric tons

Total Current fissile nuclear fuel:   U235 and all Pu239 including weapons grade Pu239 = 58,000 metric tons

An aside is needed here. From the internet, I obtained the following data:

U235 atomic heat of fission = 202.5 Mev (Million electron volts used in fundamental work)

Pu239 atomic heat of fission = 207.1 Mev

For U235 the heat of fission per kilogram = 7.28E13 joules/Kg

But: Pu239perKg/U235perKg = ((207.1)(235))/((202.5)(239)) = 1.0056 = 1

Assume: Heat of fission per Kg U235 = Heat of fission per Kg Pu239 = Heat of fission per Kg U233 = 7.28E13 joules/Kg

This makes life simpler.

Now here comes our next magic simplification. Our reserve of unused fuel becomes the unused fertile material and not the unused fissile material. We now have a reserve of 10,000,000 metric tons and not 58,000 metric tons. This is because we “brew” the new fissile material in the breeder reactor to replace the fissile material we just burned. Sounds like magic and in some sense it is. We will repeatedly consume 58,000 metric tons of fissile material until the fertile material supply runs dry.

Now here is where the “doubling time” comes in. We will assume this time to be 10 years as mentioned above. This means that our yearly fuel consumption rate is 5,800 metric tons per year.

With the afore mentioned heat of fission: 5,800,000 Kg X 7.28E13 = 4.22E20 joules/yr

4.22E20/3.15576E7 (seconds per year) = 13.4 yearly average terawatts of thermal energy

BUT we have to calculate the electric energy generated using the thermodynamic efficiency factor of 0.34, thus:

(0.34)(13.4) = 4.56 yearly average terawatts of electricity from breeder reactor nuclear technology.

This number is the absolute maximum electric power that can ever be obtained by nuclear, PERIOD. Compare this to the current world demands for energy of 16.4 yearly average terawatts. This nuclear electric power is only 28% of the current energy demand. I do not call this a solution to our future problems. It will certainly be helpful but not the total solution.

The life of this nuclear supply is in its favor and is:

10E6 metric tons/5,800 metric tons/yr = 1,724 years (not too bad!)

This is good, but who cares when it would not even meet our current requirements. Sorry, but there is no pot of gold at the end of this rainbow. Breeder reactor nuclear technology will not save our bacon.

The size of each of the 1,000 fast neutron breeder reactors would have been 4.56 gigawatts of electricity.

 Erie, PA, March 2013


Don Halcom has a Ph.D in Chemical Engineering. He is in his mid-70s, and retired.  He is available to respond to any follow up questions you may have. You can reach him here: drdon (dot) halcom (at) verizon (dot) net

You can read three  earlier essays of his here: The Re-Creation, The Return to Feudalism, What Makes You Think We Can Grow Out of This?