Thursday, February 05, 2009

Carbon capture

The issue of carbon emissions during travel has come up now and again, most recently raised by one Female Science Professor, who even took a poll of how much her readers traveled. One of the most unexpected comments was from a computer science type

I really want to go to fewer conferences, partly for the environment, but I need the publications, and hardly anyone's going to see them if they go to our journals.
autres temps, autres moeurs one supposes. But this is but the thin edge of the wedge.

Eli is a lab bunny. Labs are rooms in buildings with large electrical cables entering, high cooling costs (we heat the damn thing ohmically) and significant ventilation (throwing the bad odors up the flue). Heat exchangers and other means hold down the energy use but even the undergrad labs with their high consumption of solvents are significant greenhouse gas emitters. So other than closing the place down and being careful what should be done? NREL is making an effort as is Harvard, and there are firms specializing in energy efficient design, but the bottom line is that a lab is an energy pit. As for the modeler types, the energy cost of a respectable cluster is close to that of a mid-sized city.

Commence dumping


Anonymous said...

OT: Did you mean to imply at JF's that RP Sr. might be censoring submissions from colleagues? I am fully prepared to be shocked, shocked.

Michael Tobis said...

The computer is more like a small town and supports hundreds of users.

The biggest university computer is in my building. It requires 3 MW; say a few thousand houses. However, they are still proposing to scale up by another five six orders of magnitude in performance; energy efficiency won't scale as well and it might conceivably be equivalent to a city someday.

I don't know about other fields, but I really doubt the climate calculations will be able to add much value at that scale. I really think we should quit while we're not too far behind on this one.

Diplomats and, when they fail, bomber pilots have to fly. Scientists can take the train or even the boat.

I don't know anything about wet labs. Clumsy oaf here. I avoid test tubes and dead frogs too. Some activities might not be worth the cost anymore. It seems like this ought to be reviewed for every publicly funded activity...

The thing I have the hardest time working out is private ownership, not public. Should zero people have Hummers? If six people should have them, who are they and who decides? Shouldn't rich people have more choices? Otherwise, how do we reward difficult and valuable behavior, like dentistry? I see some sort of asymmetric carbon tax (increasing per net unit GWP) as the only way to discourage profligacy by the rich without discouraging survivial for the rest of us.

Anonymous said...


Anyone can have a Hummer. But if it costs 100 000 dollars to own one, very few will buy them (the very rich on profligacy?), and GM will stop making them.

In my view, it is not the unit consuming lots of energy, it is the multiple that counts.

A single lab is an energy pit, but the total energy spent across all US labs is probably a fraction of the total energy spent across all US homes. It is not the few Rolls-Royces that should have high MPG rates, it's the million of SUVs that must get better.


Anonymous said...

Come now Rabbet, you not knowing what can be done, (particularly when its your lab emitting the energy equivalent of an African nation). Little Stevie above is in for more shock, when told a not quite failed techno- bunny is more than happy with the ways things are, and, anyway, things can change after the bunny retires.
"I care, but make it somebody elses problem"

Lets take young Koen's suggestion beyond Hummers. Lets make the cost of labs so very expensive that funding will only be provided for the few that are the very best, and with the best researchers.

Mediocre labs done away with, and energy saved.

You can here the bunny screams now.

How is that Arctic ice going, Rabett.

EliRabett said...

Michael, some largish clusters Eli drinks with are tightly controlled by small groups of users. This, however is not very important.

Some years ago the bunny listened in on a cluster users discussion group.

A. It was clear that the administrators were clueless, and these things burned multiple times their cost in electricity and A/C. If Eli were Provost (fat chance) he would never let such a thing on campus with large space and heating fees.

B. Eli has advocated burying the clusters in abandoned mines and caves, where a lot of the AC is natural.

Anonymous said...

"Should zero people have Hummers?"

"Anyone can have a Hummer. But if it costs 100 000 dollars to own one, very few will buy them (the very rich on profligacy?), and GM will stop making them."

The irony here is that, until recently, the buyers of Hummers qualified for a special tax break, originally intended for small farmers that allowed them to write the entire purchase off on their income tax form.

The tens (if not hundreds) of billions of dollars of special breaks and subsidies that are currently in place completely skew the situation and make it very difficult for the US to reduce energy use overall.

It's not simply a matter of whether people have a "right" to buy a Hummer (absurd, really). It's really a matter of whether they should be get it free.

Anonymous said...

"Should zero people have Hummers?"

The Hummer was built to serve as a military vehicle.

Does Joe Schmoe also have the "right" to own an M-1 tank?

How about an F-16?

Or a Poseidon nuclear submarine (fully armed, of course)?

The idea that people have some inalienable right to own a Hummer is just ridiculous.

That was not in the Declaration of Independence last time I checked.

Anonymous said...

Eli has advocated burying the clusters in abandoned mines and caves, where a lot of the AC is natural."

Others would advocate burying cluster f...s like Inhofe in abandoned mines and caves.

That would probably be FAR more effective (both from an energy and COST standpoint)

Not sure the bats would be too pleased, but you can't make everyone happy all the time.

Anonymous said...

Just for clarification, the Humvee was built for military use, and the Hummer was built for people who drive down city streets and want to be associated with a real cool military vehicle. These vehicles have very little in common, and most people don't need either.

The Wonderer

John Mashey said...

"Joe Schmoe" can't own an M-1, they aren't for sale, and for gas mileage, it's probably just as well, as they get ~1 mile per 3-4 gallons.

The biggest private collection of army tanks is a few miles from here, and the owner, a very nice guy named Jacques Littlefield, just died recently; the WSJ did a good obit on him today. (His collection does have an XM-1 prototype, but not a production M-1.)

His collection includes 100s of military vehicles, including a (really rare) German Panther, a more modern Leopard, a SCUD missile launcher and lots of more common stuff like T-34s and Shermans.

Google: jacques littlefield will find you lots of pictures.

I've occasionally thought of asking Jacques to borrow an armored car to intimidate Hummers with, but that seemed petty. Even a (relatively small) Sherman would have been even more fun, but they don't let them on the roads around here.

If you watch Mythbusters, you may have seen ripping apart interleaved phonebooks, which ended up needing Jacques and his daughter driving tanks to do it, since forklifts and cars couldn't.

Oddly, it is actually cheaper to obtain old tanks [if not ultra-rare] than rare autos. Of course keeping them is not cheap, and having the machine shop to make them work is really nontrivial.

Fortunately, since they are only rarely run, their mileage doesn't really matter much.

Anonymous said...

"Joe Schmoe" can't own an M-1, they aren't for sale, and for gas mileage, it's probably just as well, as they get ~1 mile per 3-4 gallons."

..which was the very point, of course.

EliRabett said...

JMs post reminds Eli of an old picture in the German automobile club magazine, with a picture of a line of ripped up cars and the caption: Tanks always have the right of way....