About

Vijaya is an ancient Hindu name for cannabis that means ‘Victorious’ or ‘Unconquerable’.

This site is simply a collection of my writings. I write on cannabis; its past, present, and future, and sometimes other stuff.

*****

November 10, 2016

I used to write primarily on clean energy technology and policy and my site was titled the Zero Waste & Methane Blog. I have moved on from that work to focus on cannabis but I would like to take a moment to summarize what I feel about energy, pollution, and climate change.

The political debates over climate change and energy policy have become completely partisan and tribal and that is unfortunate because both sides have large ideological blinders that prevent them from seeing the full picture. Both sides in the debate, the environmental left and the conservative right, are partly right and partly wrong. My views don’t fit neatly into either camp.

I am a deep Green environmentalist even if I clash with conventional environmental perspectives. The Greens are wrong when they claim that the world can completely abandon fossil fuels and run all of civilization off of so-called renewable energy, this claim is not true, we need fuels to make big machines go. The conservatives are wrong when they deny climate change or pretend that there is no environmental crisis to deal with. Climate change is real, it is here and now and we are living it today, this is both scary and gives reasons for optimism.

My views are pretty simple:

Nature is a Zero-Waste System

  • But our modern economics are linear. We extract resources, use them once, and dump the waste in the air, land, and water. All of this waste is pollution that makes us ill.
  • We need a new industrial revolution that will take us to a zero-waste circular economy that eliminates pollution by eliminating waste.

Industrial Civilization Requires Fuels (but those fuels can be clean)

  • Before the advent of fossil fuels the world ran on slavery, for 10,000 years.
  • Natural gas is not a bridge, it’s the destination.
  • There is no technological pathway to eliminating hydrocarbon fuels from intensive applications such as heavy transportation and high-temperature industry (including the manufacture of wind turbines and solar panels).
  • We can switch from dirty fuels (coal and petroleum) to clean fuels (methane and synthetic liquids).
  • Methane provides a standard for clean fuels based on the simple measure that it is non-toxic and can be combusted indoors without ventilation. Replacing coal and petroleum with natural gas is a proven method to dramatically reduce pollution and improve air quality without sacrificing engineering performance.
  • Methane is a universal fuel that can fuel all energy sectors: heavy transportation, high-temperature industry, and electric power.
  • Methane is wildly abundant in nature, readily renewable, and will never run out. Methane hydrate formations in the ocean represent massive resources of pure fuel that needs no refining and has yet to be commercially tapped. Nature is also producing methane continuously in large amounts, we worry that it is a greenhouse gas but its abundance is favorable when viewed as a resource.
  • Methane is non-polluting when spilled though it is a serious fire hazard. This includes LNG (liquefied natural gas) which is much safer to transport than oil.
  • Combining methane with carbon dioxide produces clean liquid alcohol fuels such as methanol, ethanol, butanol, etc, and presents a pathway for recycling captured carbon dioxide back into the energy system.

The Place to Soak Up Carbon Emissions is in the Soil

  • We can absorb carbon emissions in the soil. The global warming problem is half land use, half fossil fuel burning and much more focus is needed on land use.
  • We need an agricultural revolution that rewards soil health alongside productivity. Good farmers have always known the importance of improving the soil and methods for it. Soil health can be measured in part by the depth of the top soil and we have lost 12 inches or more across much of the USA. If we can learn to restore the topsoil year-over-year across entire continents we can readily absorb all the CO2 emissions from energy use.
  • Industrial carbon capture only makes sense in limited locations where you find commercial value for the carbon dioxide, such as enhanced oil recovery.
  • I believe that it is possible to achieve Net-Zero carbon emissions through a combination of energy efficiency, alternative energy sources such as nuclear and renewables, and restoring the soil.

*****

December 30, 2014

Zero Waste and Methane Blog

This blog is simply a collection of my writings on energy technology, policy and markets.

There is a great deal of tribalism that dominates the discussions of energy technology and the environment. Fossil fuels, renewables and nuclear power all have partisans that promote their preferred solutions at the expense of the others. I believe that in a world of growing energy demand we need them all, but must strive to make them all cleaner, safer and cheaper.

In the years I have spent researching and working on energy technologies, my views have evolved substantially and in certain areas contradict my previously held beliefs. I continue to follow the facts as I find them, even when they challenge me, but I have come to hold certain beliefs that I explore in my writing.

First and foremost for me is the principle of zero waste. Nature is a zero waste system and the great failing of the industrial revolution has been society’s acceptance of waste. Waste is simultaneously pollution that makes us ill and the depletion of precious resources. In nature, every output is the input for a new process in a grand cycle. Our modern economy is linear and based on the practice of extracting resources, using them once and dumping the effluent. This linear model ensures the accumulation of toxic waste and the depletion of resources and must be replaced by a circular economic model where all resources are continually recycled.

I believe that renewables, nuclear power, electric vehicles, distributed energy and efficiency are all critical pieces in fashioning a sustainable clean energy system. I do not believe that the answer for addressing climate change is to aim for “zero-carbon” energy.

Hydrocarbons are essential and irreplaceable for industrial society. We need hydrocarbons as chemicals and storable fuels, and there is simply no practical replacement for them in broad categories of industry such as high temperature manufacturing or heavy duty transportation.

We need hydrocarbons but we do not need to accept the waste and pollution that typically comes along with them. Great strides have already been made in stripping out pollutants, such as sulfur from coal, and converting those molecules into useful commodities. The most effective way to clean up our use of fossil fuels is to optimize around natural gas.

I believe that natural gas with carbon capture will be the foundation fuel for the future, not a bridge but the destination. Natural gas is primarily methane, and methane is broadly abundant in nature. Methane is non-toxic, readily renewable and can be used across all energy sectors: heat, power and transportation.

Climate science is unequivocal that society must find a solution for keeping carbon dioxide from accumulating excessively in the atmosphere. I believe the solution lies in a combination of industrial carbon capture and soil reclamation. I believe the clean energy model of the future is a distributed power and gas network with carbon cycling.

Carbon capture and utilization is an industry that is rapidly maturing. CO2 is a useful molecule with commodity value. Though many experts advocate CO2 sequestration in saline aquifers, I believe that is an expensive waste disposal exercise that creates no value but lots of liabilities, and the real solution lies in finding markets for CO2.

Soil is the obvious place to sequester carbon dioxide. Soil reclamation can be practiced across every inch of land, in agriculture, forestry and ranching with the complementary benefits of improving water quality, plant growth and habitat. The Earth has a robust carbon cycle that we can work with.

We need for the next turn in the industrial revolution to be the alignment of our industrial economy with the Earth’s natural cycles.

Edward Dodge