Re: [asa] A greener way to get electricity from natural gas

From: Rich Blinne <>
Date: Mon Dec 07 2009 - 12:26:18 EST

On Sun, Dec 6, 2009 at 11:21 PM, Schwarzwald <> wrote:

> But let's go on. In fact, something very interesting is noted in this
> article that I'd like to draw attention to. My emphasis added.
>> Postdoctoral associate Thomas Adams and Paul I. Barton, the Lammot du
>> Pont Professor of Chemical Engineering, propose a system that uses
>> solid-oxide fuel cells, which produce power from fuel without burning it.
>> *The system would not require any new technology, but would rather
>> combine existing components, or ones that are already well under
>> development, in a novel configuration (for which they have applied for a
>> patent).* The system would also have the advantage of running on natural
>> gas, a relatively plentiful fuel source -- proven global reserves of natural
>> gas are expected to last about 60 years at current consumption rates -- that
>> is considered more environmentally friendly than coal or oil. (Present
>> natural-gas power plants produce an average of 1,135 pounds of
>> carbon dioxide for every megawatt-hour of electricity produced -- half to
>> one-third the emissions from coal plants, depending on the type of coal.)
> Wait a second here. Adams and Barton claim to have come up with a
> technology that will supposedly allow the creation and retrofitting of
> electric power plants to produce 0 CO2... and the first thing they do is *put
> a patent on it?*
> That makes me smile.

That's the wonder of cap and trade. Any CCS will be more expensive than
without just as scrubbers are more expensive than when utilities belched out
acid rain. When the George HW Bush administration introduced the concept of
cap and trade they came up with a great idea of influencing the free market
to "do the right thing". In that case, it made reducing SO2 emissions
profitable and Shazam! companies found a way to do it under budget and ahead
of schedule. If BP makes money reducing CO2 emissions using domestic fuel
sources instead of making money from selling oil to us from hostile
countries I say good for them.

Being quite familiar with patents, particularly within the corporate
environment, I am very, very curious who the assignee is. It won't be the
individuals but how it's apportioned between MIT and BP could be problematic
as other patents have been in industry/academia collaborations. This could
be even more intense than usual because most patents don't have the profit
potential this one appears to have. *Randy, when IBM collaborated with
universities how were the patent agreements dealt with?* Companies aren't
charities and I know the company I work for doesn't sponsor such research
unless we get some consideration. That's why our CEO, realizing that we
still need basic research but no one will sponsor it, was behind the
increased funding of basic research in the stimulus package.

BTW, the first sentence gives an insight how most patents are issued. Most
patents are not completely new but are a *novel configuration *of existing
industry art. This is the other theological reason why I don't buy into
intelligent design. God creates *ex nihilo. *Human engineers just shuffle
things around. Intelligent Design fails to account, therefore, with God's
transcendence. This is at the core of the thinking of many critics of
natural theology. It's not there is not evidence of His existence but rather
when we do "God talk" we too easily assume that there always existence an
analogy like Aquinas did. Actually, Thomas didn't *always* assume this so
take this more of a critique of us than him. In fact, we go far past Thomas
here and many times even assume univocal language for God. See this from
last week's PNAS:

> People often reason egocentrically about others' beliefs, using their own
> beliefs as an inductive guide. Correlational, experimental, and neuroimaging
> evidence suggests that people may be even more egocentric when reasoning
> about a religious agent's beliefs (e.g., God). In both nationally
> representative and more local samples, people's own beliefs on important
> social and ethical issues were consistently correlated more strongly with
> estimates of God's beliefs than with estimates of other people's beliefs
> (Studies 14). Manipulating people's beliefs similarly influenced estimates
> of God's beliefs but did not as consistently influence estimates of other
> people's beliefs (Studies 5 and 6). A final neuroimaging study demonstrated
> a clear convergence in neural activity when reasoning about one's own
> beliefs and God's beliefs, but clear divergences when reasoning about
> another person's beliefs (Study 7). In particular, reasoning about God's
> beliefs activated areas associated with self-referential thinking more so
> than did reasoning about another person's beliefs. Believers commonly use
> inferences about God's beliefs as a moral compass, but that compass appears
> especially dependent on one's own existing beliefs.

In other words, other people think differently than we do but not God who
always agrees with us! To use the Thomist categories this is not analogy but
univocal language. So, we now see part of the "why" of the Second
(Protestant)/First(Catholic & Jewish) Commandment. Since we think God
thinks just like us, God protects His transcendence from the sin of

Rich Blinne
Member ASA

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Received on Mon Dec 7 12:26:50 2009

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