November 20, 2014

China's 2020 energy plans

China published the Energy Development Strategy Action Plan, 2014-2020 on 19 November. The plan aims to cut China's reliance on coal and promote the use of clean energy. Here is a google translation of the document

According to the plan, annual primary energy consumption set at 4.8 billion tonnes of the standard coal equivalent until 2020. This means the annual growth rate of primary energy consumption must be limited within 3.5 percent for the next six years. Annual coal consumption will be held below 4.2 billion tonnes until 2020, 16.3 percent more than the 3.6 billion tonnes burned last year, according to the National Coal Association.

The share of non-fossil fuels in the total primary energy mix will rise to 15 percent by 2020 from 9.8 percent in 2013.

The Goal of the ratio set for 2030 is around 20 percent, China Announced Last Week During the APEC Meetings in Beijing.

The share of natural gas will be raised to above 10 percent and that of coal will be reduced to under 62 percent. Production of both shale gas and coalbed methane could reach 30 billion cubic meters by 2020.

Construction of new nuclear power plants in eastern coastal areas will begin at a proper time, with feasibility of building such plants in inland regions being studied. Installed nuclear power capacity will reach 58 gigawatts and those under construction will top 30 gigawatts by 2020.

Installed capacity of hydro-, wind and solar power is expected to stand at 350 gigawatts, 200 gigawatts and 100 gigawatts, respectively. By 2013 China was generating a total of 5,361 billion kWh (or TWh), including 4,196 TWh from thermal power stations and 1056 TWh – or just under 20% – from renewable WWS source. Large hydro accounted for 912 TWh of renewable electrical energy generated in 2013, compared with 132 TWh for wind and 12 TWh for solar PV – but the latter two sources are increasing rapidly. Of the additional electrical energy generated from WWS sources in 2013, more than half came from wind and solar PV. [39.5 TWh for hydro; 35.9 TWh for wind; and 5.7 TWh for solar PV.

Capacity factors
* about 38-45% for conventional hydro
* about 30% for wind.
* 70-95% for nuclear
* 60-65% for coal
* 12-20% for solar

Synthetic biological can reduce payloads for food, fuel, drugs and other space mission needs

Synthetic biology can be very useful to harness available volatiles and waste resources on manned missions to explore the Moon and Mars. Compared with anticipated non-biological approaches, it is determined that for 916 day Martian missions: 205 days of high-quality methane and oxygen Mars bioproduction with Methanobacterium thermoautotrophicum can reduce the mass of a Martian fuel-manufacture plant by 56%; 496 days of biomass generation with Arthrospira platensis and Arthrospira maxima on Mars can decrease the shipped wet-food mixed-menu mass for a Mars stay and a one-way voyage by 38%; 202 days of Mars polyhydroxybutyrate synthesis with Cupriavidus necator can lower the shipped mass to three-dimensional print a 120 m3 six-person habitat by 85% and a few days of acetaminophen production with engineered Synechocystis sp. PCC 6803 can completely replenish expired or irradiated stocks of the pharmaceutical, thereby providing independence from unmanned resupply spacecraft that take up to 210 days to arrive. Analogous outcomes are included for lunar missions. Because of the benign assumptions involved, the results provide a glimpse of the intriguing potential of ‘space synthetic biology’, and help focus related efforts for immediate, near-term impact.

Human Wall Crawling has arrived with scaling of gecko like synthetic adhesion

In a practical demonstration, a synthetic adhesion system enabled a 70 kg human to climb vertical glass with 140 square centimeters of adhesive per hand. They have developed a synthetic adhesion system that allows efficient scaling over four orders of magnitude of area. The synthetic adhesion system creates a nearly-uniform load distribution across the whole adhesive area, improving upon the adhesive-bearing structures of a gecko's toe and enabling a human to climb vertical glass using an area of adhesive no larger than the area of a human hand. These results show that gecko-inspired adhesives can be scaled from laboratory-scale tests to human-scale applications with little decrease in performance.

In 2006, I had predicted gecko mimicing wallcrawling suits for military and enthusiasts by 2012. This appears to be several months overdue for my prediction. The paper was submitted June 2014. The cutoff for me was Dec 31, 2012. They were working the research for many years. The paper was being written in 2013 through early 2014.

Three frames from a video (electronic supplementary material, movie S1) showing a 70 kg climber ascending a 3.7 m vertical glass surface using a synthetic adhesion system with degressive load-sharing and gecko-inspired adhesives. The time between (a) and (c) is about 90 s and includes six steps.

Countries need to plagiarize, pirate and mimic the best practices in energy and efficiency

If China and the USA each adopted a ‘best of the two’ practice in electricity production, industry, buildings and transport they would reap huge benefits.

If they did this, in relative terms, China could reduce emissions from its current policy projections by 1.2% in 2020 and 20% in 2030 - and 3.2% and 16% for the US.

But going for global best practice, together, the two countries would reduce emissions in 2020 by 2.8 GtCO2e/a below current policy projections and thus close 23% of the emissions gap. In 2030, the reductions would be of 6.7 GtCO2e/a, or 10% below the Climate Action Tracker global current policy projections.

* China has more efficient cement plants than the US, whereas the US has more efficient iron and steel plants. Both can improve significantly to reach currently best available technology.

* if both China and USA were to move to global best practice for cars (e.g. emission standard for cars as in the EU, increase of share of electric cars as in Norway) there could be a major difference.

the Deadly truce in the Ukraine has killed 28% of those killed in the five month war

An average of 13 people have been killed daily in eastern Ukraine since a 5 September ceasefire came into place, the UN human rights office says.

In the eight weeks since the truce came into force, the UN says 957 people have been killed, amid continuing violations on both sides.

A new report by the office describes a total breakdown of law and order in rebel-held Donetsk and Luhansk.

It also highlights credible allegations of abuses by government forces.

957 deaths in 2.5 months of the truce is 28% of the 3360 deaths during the 5 month war.

4,317 deaths since April, 957 of them since the 5 September ceasefire, and 9,921 people wounded

466,829 internally displaced persons within Ukraine

454,339 refugees living abroad, 387,355 of them in Russia

Five months of truce is on track to be about 56% as deadly as the Ukraine-Russia [pro-Russia] war.

Activating the money of the wealthy for Breakthrough Technology

There are a lot of breakthrough technologies in space technology, nanotechnology, quantum computers, nuclear fusion, advanced nuclear fission and radical life extension which could really benefit from a few billion dollars per year in investment.

There are a lot of rich people in the world and they are potential angel and superangel investors that could fund breakthrough technology.

                                      2014                2020
Billionaires                           2,325         3,600-4,000
$500 million+                          4,300         6,000-7,000
$100 million+                         45,000         50,000-60,000
UHNW ($30 million+)                  211,000         250,000
HNW ($1 million investable)      12-13 million       15-17 million

Getting 0.1% of world wealth for breakthrough technology could greatly speed technological advances

New Charity Investing Model like Cystic Fibrosis Foundation - invest in research and retain rights from successful breakthroughs

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation will sell royalties it gets from Vertex Pharmaceuticals Inc. (VRTX) for $3.3 billion to Royalty Pharma, taking a profit from charitable investments made to fight the fatal lung disease.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation plans to reinvest the money into new research efforts.

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation initially gave Vertex about $150 million to do research and develop new therapies. Royalty Pharma will get royalties from Kalydeco and any other drugs Vertex makes that are tied to the foundation’s investment, including two experimental drugs it’s working on. The first, a combination of Kalydeco and the drug lumacaftor that targets a mutation that occurs in at least 22,000 cystic fibrosis patients, is being reviewed for approval. A second is still in development.

Rather than receiving royalties on sales of those drugs over the next two decades, the foundation decided to cash in now so it could have more money to put into research quickly.

While the windfall means more money for research, the drug itself costs more than $300,000 and has been out of reach for some with this fatal disease.

“This was a dramatic example of risk-taking that has paid off in a remarkable way,” said Dr. Francis S. Collins, the director of the National Institutes of Health, who co-discovered the gene behind cystic fibrosis in 1989 while at the University of Michigan.

November 19, 2014

Photosynthesis genetic 'Switch' Enables Rice Yield Increase of 30 Percent

Scientists at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture have found that they can harness photosynthesis – the process that plants use to convert light energy to chemical energy – to increase rice yields by up to 30 percent.

A research group led by Andy Pereira of the Crop, Soil, and Environmental Sciences Department faculty examined a protein that acts as a “switch” to activate genes that can enhance the photosynthesis activity of rice plants. The researchers discovered that the protein, known as higher yield rice (HYR), could enable the plants to survive stress, thrive and increase productivity.

Drought physiological response phenotypes of rice ​HYR lines at the vegetative stage.

Nature Communications - Coordinated regulation of photosynthesis in rice increases yield and tolerance to environmental stress