Monday, August 24, 2015

The Next Big Carbon Source of Energy

The industrial revolution began in the early 1800s in England when coal was used to drive steam engines to provide the power to run the textile mills. Millions of laborers were replaced by weaving machines with mechanical weavers. That began the industrial revolution which continued to escalate in the form of gross domestic product production worldwide until the present. The next big hydrocarbon usage was when J.D. Rockefeller discovered oil in Ohio. He built a number of refineries across the United States and established such familiar companies as Standard Oil of California and Standard Oil of New Jersey, Mobile Oil Company, Standard Oil Kentucky and eventually Texaco. This pushed the energy hydrocarbon revolution into the United States which allowed it to become the greatest industrial nation in the world. The next big hydrocarbon activity came from laying pipeline so natural gas, which was being bled off into the atmosphere during oil drilling, could be captured and used to heat homes and generate steam power as well as create electricity. All of these different hydrocarbons contributed to the gross domestic product of the world. It kept escalating as more sources of hydrocarbon were discovered and employed in this new industrial revolution. Hydrocarbons have developed under the earth’s surface which has been disturbed by volcanos, glaciers, flooding and other natural phenomena that buried plant matter and sea life. This caused a tremendous pressure differential that was exerted upon this organic matter. The increase in pressure differential and change in temperature differential in this buried organic matter created endothermic energy accompanied by bacteria that converted the organic matter to hydrocarbons. The memory of what took place is dependent upon the differential of Delta T (temperature) and Delta P (pressure). This is the equation of thermodynamics and the equation of energy. Over the years, we have had to go deeper and deeper to recover these hydrocarbons buried under the earth’s surface. It has become more costly and more of a threat to the environment to do so. In my opinion, we are about to see the end of the hydrocarbon age. During the last 10 years, we have seen the beginning of the micro-carbon energy technology. This is the energy that is recovered from the carbon sources in the upper part of the soil where the plant roots grow and productivity of plants is increased. This is leading to a new science of biological energy. At this time, there is controversy in doing so. However, this technology is being developed and will be successfully employed in the future. Why? Biological energy uses the sunlight as its major source of energy. The microbes on plant roots convert the micro-carbons back into simple carbons which supply additional energy to plants. Agronomists did not recognize the importance of recovering the micro-carbons from the soil. They referred to it as soil health and plant health. In all cases, it relayed the carbon content of the soil in providing soil health and plant health. In reality, they are merely referring to carbon as a source of energy. Biological energy, whether it be through corn, legumes or any other plants (including trees), makes use of the sun’s energy and recovers the micro-carbons in the upper layer of the soil. We no longer need to go on deep in the soil to recover hydrocarbons which have been subjected to tremendous temperature and pressure differentials. As agricultural scientists, we must figure out a better way to recover the micro-carbons from the soil to give all of our plants more energy for higher yields and more resistance to plant disease and insects. We also must raise cover crops which can use the sunlight’s energy to transfer carbon back to the soil and build more micro-carbons into the soil for the crops that follow. Cover crops produce a natural energy windmill between the sunlight and the soil micro-carbons. We must keep this windmill focused on capturing the increased growth and utilization of nutrients and the increased energy supplied to our plants. Before we depart this subject – if we don’t increase the total energy to the plant, we must learn how to partition the energy over different stages of plant growth to maximize the energy that the plant obtains from both the sunlight and the micro carbons in the soil.

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