-----Original Message----- From: firstname.lastname@example.org [mailto:email@example.com] On Behalf Of Telmo Menezes Sent: Wednesday, November 13, 2013 1:07 AM To: firstname.lastname@example.org Subject: Re: Our Demon-Haunted World
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. 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. Another other issue is energy efficiency. Mining the raw materials and then transforming them into solar panels takes a certain energy budget. Then these panels last for some years. Then you have to build new ones. The more you remove fossil fuel from the equation, the more you have to rely on the solar panels energy to pay for the energy budget of the next generation. Notice that you also have to store a lot of energy because of seasonal effects, day an night and so on. This takes some sort of capacitor with its own energy budget. I don't think it's clear that all this could become self-sustainable with our current technology. Remember that we still have to provide for the 7 billion humans while paying these energy investments -- and I mean paying in terms of energy, doesn't matter if we're under cut-throat capitalism or a socialist utopia, this economic fact remains. In fact, defeating our dependency on fossil fuels and curbing our CO2 emissions are antagonistic goals. To bootstrap the great solar panel farm we need a lot of energy upfront. The faster you want to do it, the more of this energy has to come from fossil fuels. Then you have two options: increase CO2 emissions or use energy that you would normally use to keep the 7 billion people alive. The faster you do it and the more you rely on the second option, the more human suffering you will cause. We're mot talking about trivial inconveniences either, we're talking about millions and millions dying from starvation, cold and disease. It is tempting to assume that we can go back to a simpler lifestyle and make do with less, but this regards that the current carrying capacity was made possible by the energy budget provided by fossil fuels. Before the energy revolution there were orders of magnitude less human beings on earth, and the complexity of human society was much lower. Organising 7 billion people to live somewhat peacefully on a small planet is no trivial matter. You cannot disregard economic and social effects. We are not talking about some tribe here. A bit of politics, sorry -- part of the reason I am for less government is that I think that this level of complexity vastly outgrown human intelligence. Nobody can manage this, it has to be self-organising to a large degree. And it is. Where there is more central control, there is also more human suffering, case in point: China. They had to resort to enforcing a child birth budget to manage both the energy budget and the complexity. >>The same principles apply to wind power and all other renewable source we know of. They have horrible efficiency compared to fossil -- efficiency as in energy investments required vs. total yield. A technology breakthrough could change things, but then we're relying on something that might not even be possible. Well said, and I agree with everything you said except that the EROI of renewables being horrible compared with fossil energy. This was certainly the case in the era of easy oil (and coal and gas) but the fossil energy landscape has also changed a lot and the oil (and oil like tars in shale and tar sands) and the increasingly marginal seams of coal can only be extracted at ever increasing costs, in terms of capital and energy costs. I have seen EROI estimates for say deep sea oil platforms -- like the kind of the BP Deep Water Horizon disaster -- that are around 8:1. Still a good enough return to support technological civilation but nothing to write home about Chris Here's an interesting report that analyses both energy budget issues and complexity: http://www.feasta.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/03/Tipping-Point-Nov.pdf Telmo. > -- > You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google > Groups "Everything List" group. > To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send > an email to everything-list+unsubscr...@googlegroups.com. > To post to this group, send email to email@example.com. > Visit this group at http://groups.google.com/group/everything-list. > For more options, visit https://groups.google.com/groups/opt_out. -- You received this message because you are subscribed to the Google Groups "Everything List" group. To unsubscribe from this group and stop receiving emails from it, send an email to everything-list+unsubscr...@googlegroups.com. 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