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Heat Engines got us into Climate Change's hot water.

- Why we manufactured and are running as many as 2 billion heat engines.

Mechanical energy from horses, windmills, and waterwheels simply are not sufficient anymore.

Only heat engines provide as much mechanical energy, i.e., work, as needed, when it is needed, for as long as it is needed.

Mechanical energy made from heat first began to replace wind, waterwheels, draft animal energy, and human slave energy over 300 years ago.  Thomas Newcomen invented and built the first steam engine in 1712. 

While it delivered the power, in many respects that first steam engine was grossly unsatisfactory.
 
   (Newcomen steam engine animation at right from Wikipedia.)

About 70 years later, in 1781, James Watt patented a far more efficient steam engine that produced continuous rotative motion.  This machine could replace water wheels, windmills, etc., and soon led to the invention of railroad locomotives which brought the age of steam to every corner of the world.  Later, horses were replaced by the mobile internal combustion engine.  All this new energy from coal, oil, and heating gas ultimately enabled the building and powering of the industrial and economic world as we know it today

Machines amplify greatly the work a single man can do.  The steam engine made horses and slaves obsolete.  The song "John Henry" was about machines outperforming horses and humans.  The steam engine made the Bible's paradigm of slavery obsolete.

Combustion of fossil fuels - mostly coal - has been the only way to power industrial heat engines until the relatively recent advent of obtaining heat from nuclear fission. 

Like that first steam engine, while it delivers the power, in many respects today's nuclear reactor is grossly unsatisfactory.

Today, after about 70 years, that first generation of commercial nuclear reactors - the massive water cooled reactor - has entered the dawn of its obsolescence, soon to be replaced by oil and non water-cooled nuclear power.

 

What Heat Engines Did To The Human Race

 

The dramatic increase in the world's population came largely as a result of having heat engines rather than horses, wind, sails, and waterwheels do much of life's labors.  (Left)

5 billion people use heat engines to feed, comfortably shelter, and transport food and themselves.  This has resulted in increased life expectancies.   (Example: Japan, 84.6 years.)

2 billion people are not able to take advantage of heat engines.  Their average life span is short.  (Example: Central African Republic, 48.5 years.)

It has been speculated that there is a heat engine or a fire for every two humans on earth.  That would mean perhaps as many as 4 billion fires.  It is understandable that this number of fires, burning more or less continuously, would add a substantial amount of fire's major combustion product, carbon dioxide gas (CO2), to the air.

 

 

Some industrial fires such as power plants - can be massive and burn several 100-car coal trains every day for many years.

The fires in the heat engines of electricity power plants can be thousands of times larger than the fires found in residential heating furnaces.

It so happens fire's carbon dioxide emissions are also one of Planet Earth's major thermostat gasses, controlling how much heat the planet obtains from the sun. 

The graph at right shows how the large numbers of fire powered heat engines have changed the air over the last 200 years.  If the CO2 is not removed from the air with air scrubbers, these changes will persist for thousands of years.

Even small changes in temperature pose a big threat to our food supply.

Heat Engines make most of Climate Change.

 

 

So, what can we do to end those millions of climate changing fires? 

Adding carbon capturing devices to existing fossil fuel fire systems is a quick and effective solution.

Oil is an ample source of concentrated energy that can be refined clean enough for easy carbon capture in stationary fire systems.

The only ample source of enough cheap CO2-free heat to power all our heat engines forever is nuclear fission.  Unfortunately, like the first steam engine (the Newcomen atmospheric steam engine, above) our grandfather's nuclear reactors use water as their coolant.  That makes them unsafe and inefficient.

And, as with the vastly improved 1781 Watt steam engine, today, 70 years after the first commercial nuclear reactor, there are several improved types of reactors emerging from research laboratories.

The author of this web site sees great promise in two of them - the TRISO High Temperature Gas Reactor (HTGR) and the Thorium-fueled Molten Salt Reactor (TMSR) - and features them, along with fossil fuel carbon capture, in his suggestions of technologies for stopping Climate Change.

For now, the quickest and cheapest solution to end Climate Change is to do as we have already done with our automobile and truck engines, modify all the existing industrial fireplaces (in power plants, etc.) and the fuels for mobile and heating fires (engines and heating gas) in such a way that they no longer contribute to Climate Change.

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“Computers and other digital advances are doing for our mental power – the ability to use our brains to understand and shape our environments – what the steam engine and its descendants did for muscle,” write Erik Brynjolfsson and Andrew McAfee in the book The Second Machine Age. “They are allowing us to blow past previous limitation and into a new territory.”