Alternative Fuels Don’t Help with Global Warming

A lot of people are buying alternative fueled vehicles and so are cities, counties, major businesses etc.

On the one side, this is a good thing because it reduces pollution.  Most of these vehicles are powered by propane (C3H8).  There’s not a lot of other chemicals in propane (like sulfur and nitrogen and lead).  The reason is that propane is naturally a gas.  Most of the other compounds that make gasoline and diesel so polluting are liquids and solids at standard temperature and pressure.

Propane is cooled and compressed to a liquid for use in your bar-b-que or your alternative fueled truck.

On the other hand, propane is still a fossil fuel.  Ironically, the pollutants from gasoline and diesel may actually be helping hold off global warming (very, very slightly) by reflecting some sunlight into space.

In that respect, propane is the worst of both worlds.  It’s a super clean, but fossil fuel. 

Even propane vehicles are combustion engines.  That means fuel and oxygen go in.  Energy, carbon dioxide, and water comes out.

C3H8 + 5 O2  –> 3 CO2 + 4 H2O + energy

So for every molecule of propane you burn, you use up five molecules of oxygen and produce three molecules of carbon dioxide.  BTW: Water vapor is a greenhouse gas too, there’s just not very much of it in the air.

I freely admit that it is better than gasoline which is a mixture of various hydrocarbon molecules ranging from 4 carbons to 12 carbons (octane anyone?).

The problem is that carbon dioxide is persistent in the atmosphere.  That means that any carbon dioxide emitted into the atmosphere will affect the climate not only now, but for (most likely) the next two-three thousand years.  At least one model shows that, even if we stop all CO2 production now, the global temperature will only drop one degree every 12,000 years.

This won’t just affect us, but it will affect our children, grandchildren, great grandchildren, great great grandchildren and their great great grandchildren.

It’s really kind of stunning to know that the decision we make right now, will affect all life on this entire planet for the next 2,000 years.  What’s more, we know it will.  We can see the future.  We just don’t have the political will and the cultural intelligence to do anything about it.

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4 Responses to Alternative Fuels Don’t Help with Global Warming

  1. Eugen says:

    Interesting…but no need to worry. Tomorrow is the end of the world. Nice to meet you.

  2. ogremkv says:

    Give away all your worldly possessions. You can send it via paypal to my e-mail 😉

  3. Altair IV says:

    Actually, water vapor is quite abundant (at least in the troposphere) and is a very significant factor in global temperature. However, in regards to the greenhouse effect it’s not a primary, “forcing”, factor, but instead provides an additional positive feedback effect.

    The amount of water the atmosphere can hold is directly related to temperature, and so while human action has little direct effect on the total amount of H2O in the air, any increase in temperature caused by human-emitted greenhouse gases like CO2 also means that the air can hold more water vapor, boosting the total temperature increase even more.

    This Climate Denial Crock Of The Week video directly addresses the topic, complete with source links in the description.

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