Posted inEnvision the Future

Reckoning GDP by Counting Chemical Bond Exchanges

In?managing?how?the?world?should?work,?an?influential?article?in?Nature led?with?the?statement?that?“Gross?Domestic?Product?is?a?misleading?measure?of?national?success”?and?urged?countries?to?“embrace?new?metrics”.1?As?reported?in?this?journal,?there?has?indeed?be?a?move?by?many?countries?and?provinces?to?seek?more?realistic?data?on?sustainability.2?A?solution?to?identify?key?factors?serving?wellbeing?is?in?the?combining?of?science?and?economics?to?measure?all?activities?by?the?changes?in?chemical?bonds?made.?From?the?simple?act?of?breathing,?up?through?the?refining?of?metals,?to?complex?manufacturing?and?what?a?whole?country?produces,?the?aggregate?of?oxygen-oxygen?bonds?exchanged?for?an?oxygen-carbon?bond?is?an?insightful?indicator?of?work?done.?As?shown?in?the?graphs?leading?this?article,?the?poor?performance?in?production?in?the?US?2001-2010?can?be?identified?objectively?in?science?but?was?hidden?in?dollar-based?National?Accounts?until?after?the?crises?of?2008. The?wealth?of?nations?has?been?mused?since?the?reign?of?Solomon.?Chests?of?gold?and?silos?of?grain?were?the?early?measures,?and?the?advent?of?national?accounting?in?the?USA?80?years?ago?soon?led?to?a?movement?within?each?country?having?buildings?of?staff?working?on?their?GDP.?Leaders?across?the?spectrum?of?polities?hope?to?placate?constituents?with?news?of?GDP?growth?even?if?not?reflected?in?infrastructure?and?social?fabric.?GDP?data?shines?even?with?and?especially?if?reckless?growth?results?in?more?pollution?cleanups?and?increased?health?costs.?Money?management?becomes?unhinged?from?the?real?goods?and?services?that?money?is?supposed?to?represent,?and?“making?money”?sinks?into?to?“making-up?money”. Backlash?in?the?form?of?a?search?for?a?new?economic?paradigm3?has?led?to?attempts?at?Green?GDP?and?the?Genuine?Progress?Indicator.?China?published?Green?GDP?data?in?2006,?embarrassing?provincial?leaders?to?the?extent?that?it?was?not?published?in?subsequent?years,?even?though?an?army?of?public?servants?collect?data?and?present?a?Green?GDP?Report?which?is?not?released.4?The?Genuine?Progress?Indicator?(GPI)?can?show?what?many?people?feel—that?they?are?no?better?off?in?general?wellbeing?than?twenty?years?ago,?even?though?GDP?would?suggest?otherwise.?The?GPI?is?now?an?official?instrument?for?policy?planning?and?management?in?some?regional?governments,?and?is?proving?a?useful?tool.5?However?the?basis?for?the?index?relies?on?surveys,?interviews,?and?people’s?perceptions,?and?not?on?the?hard?facts?of?financial?records. To?tie?financial?accounting?down?to?what?is?really?happening,?attempts?are?made?to?link?to?science.?The?First?Law?of?Thermodynamics?can?be?comprehended?as?the?conservation?of?matter?and?energy.?In?practice?a?good?representative?of?finite?matter?is?gold.?Various?attempts?at?linking?a?nation’s?money?to?gold?have?been?tried,?most?responsibly?by?Great?Britain?and?then?the?USA,?but?no?country?has?been?willing?to?try?in?the?last?50?years.?Energy?is?a?more?malleable?concept,?yet?said?to?be?conserved?(indestructible)?and?therefore?applied as?a?measurement?of?economic?activity.?During?the?energy crises?of?the?1970’s?it?was?popular?to?look?on?manifestations?of?energy?as?a?currency. In?the?past?half?century?there?have?been?earnest?studies?to?link?economic?activity?to?energy?in?some?way.?Odum’s?“emergy”,6?Szargut’s?exergy7?and?Georgescu-Roegen’s?entropy?analysis8?all?have?intuitively?potential?insights?into?the?science?of?economic?production?and?consumption?processes.?This?paper?critically?reviews?the?concept?of?energy?and?its?relevance?to?the?physics,?chemistry?and?engineering?that?are?the?basis?of?primary?and?secondary?industries. “We Have No Knowledge of What Energy Is” Richard?Feynman?exclaimed?that?we?do?not?know?what?energy?is,?adding,?“we?do?not?have?a?picture?that?energy?comes?in?little?blobs”.9?And?if?the?purer?sciences?need?care?with?the?concept,?even?more?so?in?accounting?for?economic?activity.?Coal?mining?in?England?around?1750?provides?an?enlightening?case?study?in?energy?economics?before?the?term?“energy”?had?been?introduced.?Coal?mining?is?the?provision?of?a?resource?formed?by?nature?but?requiring?socio-economic?inputs?to?extract?and?deliver.?The?phenomenon?of?“energy”?resides?both?in?the?coal?and?in?the?work?done?on?it.?In?Ricardo’s?economics,?in?situ?coal?is?“virgin?land”?and?(especially?if?you?do?not?know?it?is?there)?has?no?cost.?A?major?cost?in?coal?mining?operations,?however,?is?the?vertical?lift?to?the?surface,?not?only?of?coal,?but?disposing?of?water?threatening?to?flood?the?mine.?Before?the?term,?“energy”,?was?coined?by?Thomas?Brown?in?1804,?James?Watt?had?already?popularized?the?notion?of?“horsepower”?which?he?defined?as?180?pounds?lifted?181?feet?in?1?minute?(rounded?to?33,000?foot?pounds). The?idea?of?lifting?1?pound?weight?1?foot?high?is?elegant?and?practical,?set?in?the?equation?“work?equals?force?times?distance”,?W?=F?x?d,?only?enunciated?in?physics?in?1829?by?Coriolis.?It?should?go?without?saying?that?force?is?the?vertical?force?needed?to?overcome?gravitational?force.?The?“energy”?term?entered?wider?discussion?with?Joule’s?experiments?reported?1845?linking?mechanical?work?to?heat.?The?idea?of?convertibility,?and?of?the?conservation?of?energy?(in?some?form)?evolved?into?the?field?of?Thermodynamics?and?the?First?and?Second?Laws,?impacting?on?chemistry,?electricity?and?public?imagination. Joule’s?presentation?of?his?results?as?“The?Mechanical?Equivalent?of?Heat”?was?an?exciting?advance,?discrediting?caloric?theory,?but?also?lent?itself?to?future?confusion.?In?hindsight?a?more?precise?naming?on?his?discovery?could?have?been,?“The?link?between?work?done?by?gravitational?force?and?the?maximum?heat?that?can?be?derived?from?that?work”.?That?title?is?not?as?catching,?but?does?not?pretend?any?energy?forms?are?“equivalent”.?The?force?of?gravity?can?be?harnessed?to?churn?water?and?raise?its?temperature,?but?warm?water?will?not?lift?weights?back?up?with?the?same?efficiency. Gravitational?force?is?special.?It?is?directional?and?constant,?and?though?we?have?no?idea?of?what?it?really?is,?for?all?practical?purposes?in?everyday?life,?its?source?is?the?massiveness?of?planet?Earth.?Other?forces—a?push?or?pull,?the?force?of?wind,?come?from?diverse?sources?of?energy,?and?can?manifest?themselves?in?various?forms.?There?is?no?universally?agreed?list?of?forms?of?energy,?though?most?texts?list?about?six?groups?which?may?overlap?depending?on?user?perspective.?Discounting?the?force?of?gravity?because?it?is?free?and?the?strong?force?inside?nuclei,?the?only?one?force?left?to?drive?action?(including?economic?activity)?is?the?electromagnetic?force?(emf).10 If?we?return?to?Watt’s?comparing?of?steam?engines?against?horse?power,?a?joule?is?lifting?102?grams?one?meter?against?the?force?of?gravity.?But?the?link?to?gravity?was?dropped?in?the?1946?world?conference?on?measurements?because,?quite?reasonably?for?scientific?exactness,?gravitational?force?varies?by?0.7?percent?between?the?extremes?over?the?surface?of?the?Earth.?The?replacement?definition?requires?us?to?imagine?a?mass?of?1?kilogram?with?no?gravitational?forces?acting?on?it?experiencing?some?force?that?will?accelerate?it?at?1?meter?per?second.?That?is?hard?to?imagine,?in?high?school?physics,?and?in?professional?economic?research.?The?upshot?is?confusion?in?energy?analysis?of?economic?activities. The?energy?concept?gets?only?general?treatment?in?economics,?as?if?the?details?are?taken?care?of?in?science.?Reference?to?the?relationships?water?has?with?food,?energy?and?environment11?has?firmed?into?discussion?of?a?“water-energy-food?nexus”.12?The?natural?water?cycle?is?now?almost?always?augmented?with?construction?of?storage?facilities?and?channeling?and?with?pumping.?That?is,?humans?must?intervene?with?energy?investments,?that?can?just?be?a?dollar?value,?with?the?details?left?to?engineers.?Simply?put,?energy?“inputs”?are?monetized?and?commodified.13 Yet?big-picture?accounting?of?physical?economic?activities?provides?a?useful?backdrop?to?dollar?cost?benefit?analysis.?It?can?identify?misunderstandings?in?double?counting,?counting?line?items?that?don’t?belong?and?failure?to?count?“externalities”?which?do?count?in?the?big?picture.?Energy?is?not?just?another?commodity,?another?input?to?an?ecosystem?and?is?not?some?single?digit?percentage?of?a?country’s?GDP.?In?science?there?is?only?matter?and?energy,?and?economics?never?counts?“matter”?as?a?generic?input. Economics?needs?to?reverse?engineer?some?ecological?science?and?reassemble?it?in?a?new?approach?more?useful?to?economic?analysis.?Energy?in?economics?is?more?mysterious?than?rocket?science.?The?scientists?have?left?key?problems?unsolved.?As?a?case?in?point,?gasoline?prices?figure?prominently?in?economic?scenarios,?and?yet?how?science?relates?gasoline?combustion?to?the?environment?seems?unimportant?in?engineering?and?a?mystery?in?economics. Fueling the Economy— Chemistry’s Hidden Debt In?chemistry,?the?reactants?in?gasoline?combustion?are?accounted?as?having?bond?strengths?totaling?16?kj/mol?and?the?products?as?21?kj/mol.?The?change?in?enthalpy?is?-5?kj/mol?and?it?is?this?negative?number?that?consumers?demand?and?countries?go?to?war?over.?Chemical?engineers?ignore?the?minus?sign?and?convert?this?to?Mj/liter,?and?then?for?a?family?car,?16?miles/gallon?or?7?liters/100?km.?The?chemistry?gives?us?the?magnitude?of?the?number?accurately?but?hides?what?needs?to?be?recognized?for?modelling?in?ecological?economics.?It?does?not?make?economic?sense.?If?the?energy?units?were?dollars?it?would?seem?that?the?gasoline?costs?$16?and?emissions?$21?and?as?well?allows?$5?worth?of?energy?is?released,?available?for?human?use.?From?an?economic?sense?it?would?be?expected?to?start?with?a?certain?investment?and?portion?be?directed?for?beneficial?use?and,?due?to?imperfect?efficiency,?the?remainder?emitted?as?waste.?In?chemistry?the?numbers?seem?the?wrong?way?around.?It?just?does?not?add?up. Over?the?past?hundred?years?chemistry?has?established?tests?for?the?energy?cost?of?separating?the?bonds?that?hold?atoms?in?molecules.?It?is?impossible?to?manually?separate?an?individual?bond?between?two?atoms?but?practicable?to?do?it?between?large batches?(6?x?1023?molecules).?The?published?results?serve?the?purpose?of?showing?that?when?a?fuel?combusts?with?oxygen,?the?difference?in?bond?energies?in?resultant?molecules?is?the?amount?of?energy?released?and?“available”?for?economic?use?(heating,?driving?a?car,?etc.).?Table?1?summarizes?this?lab?test. &nbps; An?attempt?is?made?here?to?venture?between?chemistry?and?economics?to?provide?an?explanation?of?the?system?at?work.?An?atom?is?a?structure?unlike?anything?in?macroscopic?engineering,?but?obeying?strict?quantum?mechanics?laws.?The?rearrangement?of?valence?electrons?seeking?tighter?bonds?in?neighboring?atoms?occurs?against?a?backdrop?of?the?total?energy?in?each?atom.?Chemistry?text?books?refer?to?the?“internal?energy”?by?the?symbol?“U”?and?deem?it?unknowable.?Given?the?complexity?of?the?Schrodinger?equation?and?acknowledging?we?cannot?pin?down?electrons’?positions,?it?seems?clear?that?there?is?no?exact?answer.?This?should?not?bother?economists,?and?guessing?internal?total?emf?as?the?sum?of?bond?strengths?of?valence?electrons?comes?up?with?an?estimate?that?can?be?improved?on?later.?See?Pull-out?Box?1?Where?does?bond?strength?come?from??for?this?approach?to?understanding?the?relevance?of?bonding?in?the?context?of?“total?energy”?in?a?single?diatomic?oxygen?molecule. &nbps; Figure?1?displays?the?conventional?approach?and?a?new?approach?that?recognizes?what?happens?when?energy?is?tapped?from?the?overall?ecosystem.?The?conventional?approach?has?been?used?for?many?decades?because?it?gives?the?correct?magnitude?of?energy?released?from?a?mole?of?gasoline?(except?it?has?a?minus?sign).?The?alternative?approach?provides?a?new?and?humbling?understanding?of?the?bigger?picture.?The?energy?made?available?is?about?2?percent?of?the?internal?energy?of?the?reactants,?and?once?done?the?products?are?locked?in?tighter?bonds?where?there?is?no?more?energy?available. This?pattern?is?demonstrated?using?the?chemistry?lab?situation?of?a?mole?of?gasoline?(octane,?C8H18).?But?the?pattern?is?the?same?when?graphing?just?one?molecule?of?octane,?or?a?liter,?ton?or?million?barrels.?Furthermore?other?hydrocarbons—methane,?propane,?exhibit?the?same?pattern?with?the?energy?released?being?2.1?percent?of?the?internal?energy?(as?calculated?in?the?Supplementary?Material).?The?energy?released?from?coal?is?less?because?of?impurities?with?the?representative?bituminous?coal?compound?in?the?Supplementary?Material?calculated?as?1?percent.?The?value?for?carbohydrates?is?1.6?percent.?In?general,?for?pure?hydrocarbons?the?energy?released?is?1.5?percent?of?the?internal?energy?(as?estimated)?of?the?oxygen?combusted. Carbon Exchange with Oxygen as Objective Measure of Economic Activity This?approach,?at?any?scale,?serves?as?a?model?for?the?realistic?appreciation?of?purposive?release?of?energy?in?any?economic?activity.?It?answers?Feynman’s?cry?for?what?that?energy?“is”.?It?is?indeed?the?“little?blobs”?he?sought,?in?the?form?of?electron-proton?pairs?within?atoms,?that?can?rearrange?combinations?of?atoms?to?save?about?2?percent?of?their?required?internal?structural?maintenance?forces. The?right?hand?half?of?Figure?1?is?replicated?in?Figure?2?with?the?bond?exchanges?shown?occurring?as?the?reactants?become?products.?In?Figure?2?and?its?right?hand?half,?the?purposive?act?of?extracting?energy?from?the?reactants?can?be?shown?in?the?exchange?of?bonds?that?results?in?the?slightly?tighter?arrangement?of?products?with?the?difference?being?what?we?perceive?as?the?energy?released.?Only?2?percent?of?the?energy?internal?to?the?reactants?is?made?available?for?economic?use.?This?is?a?humbling?surprise?for?economic?actors?and?for?analysts?of?economic?behavior.?An?explanation?of?the?reaction?in?the?center?of?Figure?2?is?set?out?in?Pull-out?box?2. &nbps; Work as Lifting Against […]