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Biosequestration

As previously mentioned the vast proportion of CO2 in the atmosphere is naturally released and is in turn naturally absorbed.  Some is dissolved in rain and ultimately acidifies the oceans but a great deal is absorbed by plants in the process of photosynthesis; consuming water and usually releasing oxygen. 

This is a natural solar collector.  Plant absorption is increased if CO2 levels rise and plants have access to sufficient water and sunlight.  Trials have been undertaken at higher CO2 levels with a number of existing economic plants to determine such things as the ‘fertiliser effect’ higher water uptake and increased solar absorption. 

Obviously producing biofuel or food does not permanently sequester carbon and any credit should only apply the solar energy collected by the process; as this, in turn, reduces dependence on other energy sources. To get a full credit, similar technology might produce cellulose that could be charred and buried to improve soils or other carbon rich materials that could be safely buried in depleted mines or other suitable sites. Charing and burying of bagasse, straw and wood-waste is already a recognised sequestration technology.

Natural biosequestration is happening already.  Accelerated Biosequestration is more problematic, in part because the CO2 emitted by industrial processes is dirty and if used directly would kill most plants or algae. So it must first be cleaned and this can be both difficult and expensive.

It is clear that accelerated CO2 absorption by conventional agriculture and plants, for example by reticulating CO2 to greenhouses or forests, would be costly and would not fully deal with the vast quantities of CO2 involved.  But some plants and bacteria evolved when CO2 levels were very much higher and it appears to be possible to exploit their genome to modify them or other plants and organisms, to produce economically useful materials; at the same time absorbing large volumes of CO2.

Several projects are already in underway internationally.  The most interesting involve algae that could be used to produce diesel fuel, directly or as chemical feedstock.  Other, possibly complimentary, options include modifying food crops like rice (to a C4 plant) so that additional CO2 and sunlight are absorbed (and carbohydrate yields improved).

Again the problem is the scale required to make a difference. A very large solar collection area is required together with plentiful water.  Areas comparable to present broad acre agriculture will be required, probably as shallow lakes.  It would be particularly useful if algae that are comfortable in salt water could be adapted.

Again there are safety issues to be considered. These vast lakes or fields will be filled with genetically modified organisms and the regulatory environment relating to GM organisms and foods would need to be changed accordingly. 

Like the introduction of the Cane Toad to Australia, the cure could well turn out to be worse than the disease.

 


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Travel

Thailand

 

 

In October 2012 flew to India and Nepal with Thai International and so had stopovers in Bangkok in both directions. On our way we had a few days to have a look around.

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Fiction, Recollections & News

Egyptian Mummies

 

 

 

 

Next to Dinosaurs mummies are the museum objects most fascinating to children of all ages. 

At the British Museum in London crowds squeeze between show cases to see them.  At the Egyptian Museum in Cairo they are, or were when we visited in October 2010 just prior to the Arab Spring, by far the most popular exhibits (follow this link to see my travel notes). Almost every large natural history museum in the world has one or two mummies; or at the very least a sarcophagus in which one was once entombed.

In the 19th century there was something of a 'mummy rush' in Egypt.  Wealthy young European men on their Grand Tour, ostensibly discovering the roots of Western Civilisation, became fascinated by all things 'Oriental'.  They would pay an Egyptian fortune for a mummy or sarcophagus.  The mummy trade quickly became a lucrative commercial opportunity for enterprising Egyptian grave-robbers.  

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Opinions and Philosophy

Manufacturing in Australia

 

 

 

This article was written in August 2011 after a career of many years concerned with Business Development in New South Wales Australia. I've not replaced it because, while the detailed economic parameters have changed, the underlying economic arguments remain the same (and it was a lot of work that I don't wish to repeat) for example:  

  • between Oct 2010 and April 2013 the Australian dollar exceeded the value of the US dollar and that was seriously impacting local manufacturing, particularly exporters;
  • as a result, in November 2011, the RBA (Reserve Bank of Australia) reduced the cash rate (%) from 4.75 to 4.5 and a month later to 4.25; yet
  • the dollar stayed stubbornly high until 2015, mainly due to a favourable balance of trade in commodities and to Australia's attraction to foreign investors following the Global Financial Crisis, that Australia had largely avoided.

 

 

2011 introduction:

Manufacturing viability is back in the news.

The loss of manufacturing jobs in the steel industry has been a rallying point for unions and employers' groups. The trigger was the announcement of the closure of the No 6 blast furnace at the BlueScope plant at Port Kembla.  This furnace is well into its present campaign and would have eventually required a very costly reline to keep operating.  The company says the loss of export sales does not justify its continued operation. The  remaining No 5 blast furnace underwent a major reline in 2009.  The immediate impact of the closure will be a halving of iron production; and correspondingly of downstream steel manufacture. BlueScope will also close the aging strip-rolling facility at Western Port in Victoria, originally designed to meet the automotive demand in Victoria and South Australia.

800 jobs will go at Port Kembla, 200 at Western Port and another 400 from local contractors.  The other Australian steelmaker OneSteel has also recently announced a workforce reduction of 400 jobs.

This announcement has reignited the 20th Century free trade versus protectionist economic and political debate. Labor backbenchers and the Greens want a Parliamentary enquiry. The Prime Minister (Julia Gillard) reportedly initially agreed, then, perhaps smelling trouble, demurred. No doubt 'Sir Humphrey' lurks not far back in the shadows. 

 

 

So what has and hasn't changed (disregarding a world pandemic presently raging)?

 

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