Technical Difficulties from on Top of the Mountain
2004-10-28
  The winds of energy
The Winds of Change has a great run down on the state of energy covering everything from fossil fuels to policy issues.

While not all the news is good (Like France pushing ahead on more big nukes, but then it already gets 75% of its power from nuclear reactors which are aging), and some of the news is rather old (like the continuing application of Acoustical Stirling Engines, this time for Space), one gets the idea that there won't be one single silver bullet for replacing oil, but rather a thousand little projects, each providing a bit of energy for us to move forward on.

Unfortunately, on the macro scale, the analysis shows that even with a few major breakthroughs, we're only going to be able to generate energy on par with the world consuption circa 1980. This being the eve of 2005, we've grown a bit more hungry in our energy diet. We're going to have to cut back—way back. While I can get pretty smug about my direct energy usage (electricity, wood heat, limited driving), the reality is that I'm living in a remote city that doesn't naturally support life, and almost everything I buy is trucked in from far away places (sometimes other continents). Food is going to get a lot more expensive, material goods are going to become scarce, and raw materials are going to be harder to get ahold of. Who knows if computer programming is even going to be that much in demand, once running computers becomes a luxury. Its going to be a strange new world.

Its so predictable that we've reached this point. Back in college, our dormatory received a few thousand dollars for being the backdrop in the filming of Beverly Hills Cop 2. It wasn't a lot of money, they only used a hallway as a pretend door that he breaks into (I think using a gum wrapper to foil the alarm), but after the film did well and the check cleared, we had a big house meeting to decide what to do with the windfall.

Now some people wanted to use the money to make improvements to the house (purchase new stuff, etc.) but the seniors and to a lesser extent the juniors didn't want the money spent on something they'd only get to use for a limited time. They thought it was unfair that others would get the benefit longer, or even that people in generations to come would be benefiting. No, can't have that. They wanted to spend all the money immediately on some kind of event or bash so that they'd be present for the full effect and get their fair share. So the entire amount was spent on a ski trip a month later and was gone in a weekend with nothing left to show for it.

What's frightening is that these were not stupid people. These were college seniors, shortly to become our future generation, and all they could think about was getting as much as they could of what was on the table. No thought at all for the future. And that's what's happened on the larger scale with our country, as its used as much energy as it could get its hand on, and even spent the inheritance of its children to be, by running up enourmous deficits.

Click for an enourmous version of this image

On the long term scale, I still have hope for our species. Someday someone just may figure out how to get fusion to work (like the guys at Sandia National Laboratory playing with plasma in the Z Machine pictured above). Combine that with some Nuclear Rockets to get us to the moon and back to pickup a load of Tritium and then its energy so cheap it's not even metered (ok, where have we heard that before). Once we have the energy situation solved, we can then get back to fighting with each other over water or maybe just for the fun of it.

[reference]
For some light reading, try the e-book: The Oil Age is OVER. Free until Nov 2.
Also, a more upbeat analysis, another free e-book: Winning the Oil Endgame

 
Comments:
Oh, that's what the ski trip was about? I had no idea. That'll teach me to skip house meetings.

(Hi there -- I came across your blog through the MFA thing. I wish I'd heard of it early enough to sign up.)
 
That's why they call it "alternative" energy. If it worked, it would just be "energy".
 
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Paul Graham's Essays
You may not want to write in Lisp, but his advise on software, life and business is always worth listening to.
How to save the world
Dave Pollard working on changing the world .. one partially baked idea at a time.
SnowDeal
Eric Snowdeal IV - born 15 weeks too soon, now living a normal baby life.
Land and Hold Short
The life of a pilot.

The best of?
Jan '04
The second best villain of all times.

Feb '04
Oops I dropped by satellite.
New Jets create excitement in the air.
The audience is not listening.

Mar '04
Neat chemicals you don't want to mess with.
The Lack of Practise Effect

Apr '04
Scramjets take to the air
Doing dangerous things in the fire.
The Real Way to get a job

May '04
Checking out cool tools (with the kids)
A master geek (Ink Tank flashback)
How to play with your kids

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