Quote of the Day: Tim Flannery, The Weather Makers

I'm currently reading The Weather Makers by Tim Flannery (see Lloyd's review) and wanted to share this quote with you:

It is our servants--the billions of engines that we built to run on fossil fuels such as coal, petrol and oil-based fuels, and gas--that play the leading role in manufacturing CO2. Most dangerous of all are the power plants that use coal to generate electricity. Black coal (anthracite) is composed of at least 92 per cent carbon, while dry brown coal is around 70 per cent carbon and 5 per cent hydrogen. Carbon and oxygen--the components of CO2--are close neighbours on the periodic table, meaning that they have similar atomic weights. Because two oxygen atoms combine with one carbon atom to form CO2, around three and a half tonnes of the gas is created for every tonne of anthracite consumed. Some power plants burn through 500 tonnes of coal per hour, and so inefficient are they that around two-third of the energy created is wasted. And to what purpose do they operate? Simply to boil water, which generates steam that moves the colossal turbines to create electricity that power our homes and factories. Like the great aerial ocean itself, these Dickensian machines are invisible to most of us, who have no idea that nineteenth-century technology makes twenty-first-century gadgets whirr. See also: ::Book Review: Big Coal - The Dirty Secret Behind America's Energy Future

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