Sunday, January 29, 2012

What Do We Do Now? -- Continued

Electricity is the nexus of many renewable energy resources.  Renewable energy sources are all over the place, and no one can monopolize them.  These are quite democratizing -- energy is available virtually anywhere and everywhere.

Sure geothermal on the surface is only in a few places (Iceland, parts of the USA, New Zealand, etc.) but wind is in many places, including the corridor from Texas up to the Dakotas, and basically all around the midwest, California, and offshore from our coasts.  Wind scales up well, getting more efficient as the turbines get bigger.  We now have direct drive turbines that eliminate the weakest piece of the previous generation -- the transmission, and so they generate more power, break less often, cost less to build and maintain, and they save about 17 tons of weight, to boot.

Solar can be virtually anywhere -- Germany even!  Germany is about as sunny as Washington state, which is the least sunny place in the lower 49 states.  Solar is great for the highest load which is for air conditioning -- and there are no grid losses when it is right in the same building.  Solar scales down nicely.

Combining solar and wind along with a few gas turbines (methane from sewage or farm wastes) for peak load, and a hydro power station with an elevated reservoir works very well.  Here's how this works in Germany:

Here's a Scientific American article on powering the USA with renewable energy 100% by 2030:

And we can use wave power -- there are three companies (at least) around the world that already make these -- here's the one in New Jersey:

Most of the world's people live close to the coast, so wave power and tidal power are close by.

We need to transition to renewable energy NO MATTER WHAT.  Eventually, the finite resources we are using now -- oil, coal, gas and uranium will run out, by definition.  The earth is just one planet; and it is the only one we have.  The other more likely scenario is that we will cause too much climate change by burning up the carbon fossil fuels dumping all the carbon that has been packed away over million and millions and millions of years back into the atmosphere in less than 200 hundred years, and we will have more chaos in our climate than we can adapt to.

So, hopefully oil and coal gets too expensive so that we will switch to renewable energy -- which will last another billion years -- until the sun explodes!  And it will not pollute in ways that we cannot deal with. 

We need to stop subsidizing oil and coal.  We need to be able to stop requiring a huge military to defend oil supplies.

We need to stop using up all of the finite resources -- our factory agriculture is totally dependent on oil and gas and phosphorus and chemical pesticides.  It kills the natural life cycle within the soil -- the dirt that we are utterly dependent on for our lives.  Dead unproductive soil that erodes into the sea won't grow anything.  It won't hold water and it won't let it filter down into the aquifers that we are pumping dry as fast as we can.

Life itself created all the soil, and we are made of the exact same materials that are in the soil.

Oil is the primary reason that we have accelerated so quickly from living within that cycle of life to living beyond what the earth can sustain.  We need to use our intelligence and our scientific knowledge, and our adaptability to change what we now know needs to be changed; before we lose too much of the life support here on this earth that we cannot live without.

There is no "planet B".


  1. I do this already.  My girlfriend calls it, "being a terrible driver."  

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