On Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 10:18 AM, LizR <lizj...@gmail.com> wrote:
> On 13 November 2013 22:06, Telmo Menezes <te...@telmomenezes.com> wrote:
>> On Wed, Nov 13, 2013 at 12:49 AM, LizR <lizj...@gmail.com> wrote:
>> > On 13 November 2013 10:55, <spudboy...@aol.com> wrote:
>> >> if you want us to give up the bad, dirty, power, then please provide a
>> >> clean, affordable, abundant substitute. Faster, please.
>> > The Sun, of course. Produces millions of times more power than we need.
>> > Trouble is the fossil fuel industry doesn't want us to use it. Given the
>> > sort of effort ut into that that has been put into the "space race" or
>> > warfare we'd have this sorted by next week.
>> I have no doubt that the fossil fuel industry will try to prevent
>> this. I also agree that the effort put into wars is a horrible misuse
>> of human potential and that great things could be achieved instead.
>> Regarding solar power -- this could be the solution but it's sci-fi at
>> the moment. It's intuitive to look at solar panels and imagine fossil
>> fuels being replaced by this. It's less intuitive to visualise the
>> scale of the problem and the limitations of current technology. We
>> have a world population of about 7 billion now. It has doubled since I
>> was born, in 1976. It continues to grow at more than 1% a year and
>> this is an important part of the equation. Ultimately, the world's
>> energy budget is mostly spent on providing basic necessities to all of
>> these people. Food, heating, health care, schools and so on. I'm not
>> arguing that the resources are correctly distributed, but I am arguing
>> that this is what we mostly use the energy for. A lot of energy. The
>> large chunk of it currently comes from oil, coal and natural gas.
> Not just that. A lot of fertiliser is made from oil, apparently, so we are
> literally eating the stuff too.
>> So the problems, according to my limited knowledge: current solar
>> panels are based on silicon, which is a scarce resource. The amount of
>> silicon available might not be enough for the total solar panel
>> surface area that we would need to remove our dependency on fossil
>> fuels. In fact, some people are suggesting that we already reached
>> peak silicon.
> There are already carbon based solar panels,
> plus silicon itself is cheap,
> cheap, cheap - another name for it is sand! :)
Ok but you have to heat the sand in furnaces to more than 2,000°C. And
transport the sand and so on. It's the fossil fuels that make these
things cheap. I'm not saying that they cannot also be cheap with
sustainable energy sources, I'm arguing that it's not trivial to
bootstrap the transition, and that in fact it might be terribly hard.
I really want it to be possible, by the way. I'm not arguing against
the desirability of the goal.
> The point is that technology can also go exponential.
I agree. I tend to put more faith in technology than politics, but
recent events also made me more aware of the unintended consequences
of technology. I was an Internet utopian and now I'm a bit depressed,
for example :)
> Solar panels have been
> dropping in price and becoming easier to produce for the last couple of
> decades. Cell phones are already revolutionising third world agriculture,
> because they are now so cheap to produce. With any luck (or rather tech)
> solar panels will continue to drop in price and become easier to produce and
> use - panels you can put on your windows and run a wire from, panels that
> can be put onto the sides of office buildings, etc. The great thing is there
> is far more solar power available than we need.
This is all true, but it is also true that we currently run on fossil
fuels and this is the energy source we have available to bootstrap the
next stage, barring a catastrophic level of human suffering. Or there
could be a major technological breakthrough, as you say. I am
skeptical of idea that the fossil fuel feudal lords are hiding this
tech from us. Not because they are not sufficiently evil, but because
there would be too much money to be made by other feudal lords by
adopting it. In fact, if my understanding of geopolitics is correct,
the western elites would probably prefer to be less dependent on arab
countries for their energy needs.
I could be completely wrong, and am more than willing to be corrected.
> (The next step is to use solar power to extract carbon from the air...)
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