Saturday, December 22, 2007

Technology and Innovation, Not the Church of Gore

f all the alternatives to OIL and the burning of fossil fuels as the principal source of the human race's energy, I thought at first that nuclear energy would emerge as the best option. But a Grand Solar Plan in the January 2008 Scientific American could give even Nuclear Fusion advocates a run for their Carbon Tax dollars.
  • A massive switch from coal, oil, natural gas and nuclear power plants to solar power plants could supply 69 percent of the U.S.’s electricity and 35 percent of its total energy by 2050.
  • A vast area of photovoltaic cells would have to be erected in the Southwest. Excess daytime energy would be stored as compressed air in underground caverns to be tapped during nighttime hours.
  • Large solar concentrator power plants would be built as well.
  • A new direct-current power transmission backbone would deliver solar electricity across the country.
  • But $420 billion in subsidies from 2011 to 2050 would be required to fund the infrastructure and make it cost-competitive.
As the article makes clear, this concrete and eminently doable plan (at least on paper) would supply the energy for about 344 million rechargeable electric powered vehicles, using about 30,000 square miles of sunlit land area, which is comparable to that taken up by coal-fired power plants and the coal mines that service them.

I'm sure that America will do something big like this, since it is not really much more ambitious than the Interstate Highway system built after World War II, or the telecommunications infrastructure rolled out over the last 30 years.

Once a clear, "can-do" proposal like this is seen by the American people, it is the sort of thing that will galvanize them into action much more than Al Gore's millenarianian church with carbon-tax collection plates. It is the kind of vastly ambitious but practical and no-nonsense project that the people and government of the United States have proven in the past that they are capable and eager for.

We shall see who actually solves the world's energy and environmental problems--the prophets of doom or the engines of technology and innovation that represent the leading edge of human adaptation. Survival of the smartest. Ideological resentment and Gore's America-bashing will look mighty foolish the day they turn on that new solar-powered DC-Electrical Backbone and people "plug in" instead of "fill up" while the rest of the world's environmental Cassandras attend conferences and issue manifestos.


Amadeo said...

The other day, TV stations focused on the subject of solar energy, but not land-based. Instead Solar Power From Space.

Still far-fetched? Maybe. I am hopeful that in my lifetime, the US will eventually drill on ANWR, still unable to wean from its oil dependency. As late as 2005, the SPR, the oil reserve maintained by the government, was increased to its full capacity of 1 billion barrels. Good for 80 days supply without imports?

Unless more terrible things happened in the MidEast, with the oil producers in Africa and with the unreliable likes of Venezuela's Chavez. Then development of alternative sources will still play second-fiddle. The US can't even build more nuclear plants with pervasive NIMBY attitude going around.

DJB Rizalist said...

I think it will take a lot more and a lot longer to reform Islam than to get off the dependence of the world, and its future, on what is essentially Jihadi Juice, by developing an entirely new energy paradigm. I say leave them and all of it in the sands of Arabia and Venezuela. We can do much better for ourselves and the Earth than internal combustion technology. We have the brain power, the resources and the moral high ground to do it. Even the worst of the Western countries will realize that it is once more scientific ingenuity and knowhow that will save mankind. It wouldn't be the first time in our long and illustrious history that we would survive because we are fit to survive, not to whine.

lcnatabio said...

A few blogs ago you do not even believe the so-called "trash" that Al Gore is peddling re: global warming due to excessive carbon emissions from fossil fuel.

So now you think it's science and technology that will usher in the brave new world against global warming.

It's all very fine sir, but I think you are a hoax DJB (not AG).

DJB Rizalist said...

Merry Christmas to you too, Icnatabio. It's the season for juveniles, bless their fresh young hearts and eager minds.

tiki said...

You forgot to mention the following:

1. Peak oil: the price of oil is going up due to increasing demand from India and China; it will be a miracle if we can make it to 2050 (where global population might reach 9 billion), given the harsh reality that any transition to alternative forms of energy will still require a lot of petrol, coal, etc;

2. Peak everything: so is the price of food, uranium, gold, and even solar power cells, because, apparently, more want a "solar grand plan" (including China, which not only has been constructing solar cell farms but has been trying to corner many commodities, from steel to coal to uranium to solar cells);

3. A global credit crunch: the U.S. is facing mounting debts and any "grand plan" will entail more debts; significant portions of its assets have now been sold off to the Arabs and now the Chinese; its debts are increasing at a rate five times higher than its income increase, and even with a depreciating dollar it is still facing a trade deficit;

4. global warming: new scientific estimates show that the effects might come sooner than we think, and probably way before 2050;

It's possible, then, that this plan may be hampered severely by lack of funds, increasing demand for materials needed for renewable energy by other countries (I read recently that even the price for windmills has gone up considerably), lack of food, petrol, medicine, and other necessities for the same reason, and possibly other major crises such as a pandemic (bird flu, etc; and probably even viruses like UG99 which can kill off wheat crops worldwide), war (more invasions and fights over oil, water, and other resources), and even the other problems mentioned above.

For example, wheat prices worldwide have gone up considerably (around 9 percent a month, or up to 75 percent a year) because of droughts which hit Australia and other countries as well as increasing demand from China, India, and other countries. Add problems like biofuel resources eating up food crop resources, plant epidemics, a credit crunch, and production may drop even more. Combine that with increasing demand and prices might go up faster.

Imagine trying to construct major renewable energy farms amidst such demand, shortages, and other difficulties.

DJB Rizalist said...

Imagine all that Man has gone through to get to this spot you point out.

What do you think life was like when life expectancy was about 35 because of hunger, disease, ignorance predators, and the absence of SUV's and Ipods?

Do you think the Earth was just a nice stable, generally cool and benign world throughout our 100,000 year career as the greatest survivors that ever were?

Do you think these "complications" you list have been our hardest problems to tackle.

There is one thing in common with all of our past accomplishments as a species. We never got the right solution until we knew what the problem REALLY was.

RR said...

Unfortunately, we may not be here to see how man solves this energy problem or, if it is man who comes up with a solution.

As to Al Gore, I just live and let live. I think he is so wanting of attention.

DJB, personally, I think that if it is man who comes up with a solution it will not be one source but many, most of which you have mentioned in passing in your post.

Happy Holidays!

lcnatabio said...

"We never got the right solution until we knew what the problem REALLY was"

Yeah right. Like you even tried to discredit carbon emission as a factor in global warming.

You instead unscientifically theorized that global warming could be caused by the twin sister of father Sun passing close by to say hello.

What unbelievable crap!

lcnatabio said...


You claim that you are a scientist, a physicist, a rocket scientist who is in leauge with the likes of internet inventor Tim Berners-Lee.

What scientific paper have you published or new idea you have invented that could add to the whole stock of knowledge already available in the scientific community which would validate your claim?

Are you for real or only a braggart?

blackshama said...

Science professionals do not have a problem with Al Gore unless his claims contradict scientific evidence. If we value scientific objectivity, then it is quite likely that the evidence for global warming as caused by humans can support a plausible theory unless a more parimonious alternative hypothesis is verified.

There is a danger when we begin to use words as "church" or "religion" when we consider scientific theories. Tagging these names to current scientific theories is the usual business of cranks, religious fundamentalists, charlatans and the like for whom objectivity is something to throw into the trash can! If one believes a scientific theory is false then one has to find a more plausible and parsimonious theory rather than call those who support the theory as belonging to a church of this or church of that.

Technological applications also require scientific objectivity unless one is into sci fi. He we have to consider many factors. For instance turning the whole American southwest as a giant solar farm also will have environmental impact.

tiki said...

To DJB, from what I remember, the human race benefited greatly only during the latter part of the 1800s, when oil was readily used. In fact, it is the use of crude oil that led to rapid industrialization worldwide, and with that dramatic benefits in terms of food, medicine, and other necessities for more people.

Unfortunately, it also led to dramatic increases in population. That issue is so pronounced that even today we barely realize that when JFK became president there were only half the number of people worldwide than there are today. And as more human beings began to demand not only for more basic needs but also luxuries (e.g., besides demand for milk, wheat, and other necessities, demand for refrigerators, automobiles, and air conditioners in India, China, and other countries is soaring).

Now, not only has production peaked in two-thirds of oil-producing countries, even the prices of materials needed for alternative energy, including solar power cells, uranium, and even windmills are increasing. In fact, China is now trying to corner the uranium market worldwide by striking deals with Australia and other countries, and even with that it is still experiencing energy and even food shortages in various cities.

On top of all these, droughts are also leading to water, and with that, drops in food production, as seen in India, China, Australia, and other countries.