Insights

Earth hour, Energy Summits, Hopenhagen, Clean Energy, Hydrogen Economy, sustainable developments et al are few most frequently heard terms in our so called aware society, which is making an honest effort to save itself from the looming energy troubles. The effort has to be a magnum opus not just in its scale but also its effectiveness. When the stakes are too high as are in this particular case, the efforts have to be paramount as well. However there are certain facts, mentioned below, which make the situation grimmer.
Facts:

  • India’s consumption of crude oil is approximately 3.2million barrels per day. India produces 1.4 metric tonnes of Carbon Dioxide per capita annually. World consumption of crude oil is approximately 86.9 million barrels per day. World reserves of crude oil are reported to be 687.43 billion barrels. At the present rate of consumption the reserves are expected to last for 25 more years.
  • Nuclear power leaves a toxic legacy to all future generations; it produces global warming gases, most notably CO2 , chlorofluorocarbon gas which is responsible for ozone depletion and which is 1000 to 2000 times more potent than carbon dioxide, and radioactive isotopes such as krypton, xenon, argon and tritium, which cause gene mutations; it is far more expensive than any other form of electricity generation; and it can trigger proliferation of nuclear weapons, At present there are 442 nuclear reactors in operation around the world. If, as the nuclear industry suggests, nuclear power were to replace fossil fuels on a large scale, it would be necessary to build 2000 large, 1000-megawatt reactors. Even if we decided today to replace all fossil-fuel-generated electricity with nuclear power, there would only be enough economically viable uranium to fuel the reactors for three to four years.
  • The basic problem of hydrogen fuel cells is that the second law of thermodynamics dictates that we will always have to expend more energy deriving the hydrogen than we will receive from the usage of that hydrogen. The common misconception is that hydrogen fuel cells are an alternative energy source when they are not. In reality, hydrogen fuel cells are a storage battery for energy derived from other sources. In a fuel cell, hydrogen and oxygen are fed to the anode and cathode, respectively, of each cell. Electrons stripped from the hydrogen produce direct current electricity which can be used in a DC electric motor or converted to alternating current. The use of hydrogen as an intermediate form of energy storage is justified only when there is some reason for not using the primary source directly. For this reason, a hydrogen-based economy must depend on large-scale development of nuclear power or solar electricity. Hydrogen is a common element, but it has to be extracted from other sources in ways that can be environmentally damaging. The most common method for producing hydrogen involves converting natural gas, but with natural gas already in increasing demand and short supply, it’s not practical to expect it to be a major source for powering vehicles.
    It seems that ‘facts’ to one person may be ‘opinion’ to another person. Biases enter into almost any discussion. So, what we want to believe is frequently what we do believe. However, when there is a general consensus in the scientific community as to the validity of information we tend to view that information as ‘fact’. As more sources provide reinforcement to the information presented, the more likely we are to believe it. No doubt the facts presented here could be contrived to be biased toward raising awareness of the energy situation, but they are presented by many sources and so have considerable credibility.

    So is there a solution to the imminent crisis, or are we headed to the horrible ends hitherto shown in sleazy Hollywood movies? But wait isn’t it true that “Cometh the Hour, Cometh the man.”Of course it is.
    But in the world we live today, providing tangible solutions in this most critical hour of energy crisis is beyond the reach of any of our super-hero’s extra-ordinary powers. Yet, one simple idea seems so promising that it might lead us to reason our way out of this staggeringly cumbersome situation. Biogas Sustainability.
    An estimate indicates that India has a potential of generating 6.38 X 10^10 m3 of biogas from 980 million tonnes of cattle dung produced annually. The heat value of this gas amounts to 1.3 X 10^12 MJ. In addition, 350 million tonnes of manure would also produce along with biogas.
    Domestic biogas plants convert animal manure and human excrement at household level into small, but valuable, amounts of combustible methane gas. This ‘biogas’ can be effectively used in simple gas stoves for cooking and in lamps for lighting. The residue of the process, bio-slurry, can be easily collected and used as a potent organic fertiliser to enhance agricultural productivity. A minimum of 20 kg of manure is required on a daily basis to feed the plant. All plants are equipped with a provision to attach a toilet. On average, farmers keeping a minimum of two heads of cattle or six adult pigs can generate sufficient gas to meet their daily basic cooking and lighting needs.
    Biogas plants provide multiple benefits at different levels. These benefits are appreciated differently in different countries, and can be classified according to their impact on gender, health, employment, environment, energy, agriculture and sanitation. For example in Pabal, India there are multiple power cuts during a day. Businesses that rely on electricity become less efficient and lose profits as a result of power losses. The government has no short-term plans to address the electricity problem in rural India so an alternative power solution is needed to alleviate the problems caused by power cuts. Setting up of small scale Biogas plant with the aid of an NGO named Vigyan Asharam, has reduced the problems faced during these frequent power cuts.
    Even if we once forget the insuperable benefits that result out of Biogas Generation and Utilisation, the everlasting vast expanse of landfills that would not be generated provides enough motivation to pursue Biogas production. It is thus of immense importance that Biogas production is promoted at all levels most importantly from the daily household waste generated in colonies. Setting up of such small scale plants is favourable and provides a good ad-up to the other sources of energy that we use. It is high time that we individually look into the problem and help to overcome the crisis.
    To know more about effective measures to switch to Biogas: http://www.gbes.in/