Monday, December 14, 2009

Myopia and Provincialism

The myopia of most people regarding energy seems uncorrectable no matter what glasses they wear. "I drive a big car in suburbs, so cheap gasoline is necessary for the country."  "I live in New York, so nobody should have a car bigger than a Mini." "Corn-based ethanol and retro-fitted roof-top solar photovoltaics make good policy sense because I read about them in a (numerically-illiterate) magazine/blog I like."

We have so many opportunities for harvesting truly huge amounts of energy. Without bountiful energy, we will never improve the standard of living of the billions. Once people have a better life, they don't reproduce as fast.

Beyond the usual surface wind and photovoltaic solar technologies, there are even greater resources in orbiting solar, high-altitude wind (20,000 feet high kites), thermal solar, deep geothermal, new nuclear technologies, and ocean thermal energy conversion (tapping the difference between tropical surface ocean temperatures and deep water temperatures).  Any one of these technologies has the potential to meet 100% of earth's present energy consumption.  Google them for more info.

We then use these technologies to produce NH3, a carbon-free energy carrier/fuel that can be used in internal combustion engines, turbines, and fuel cells. It burns to H2O and no greenhouse gases.

Yet...most people still won't insulate their homes.

So much energy has externalities that everyone, e.g. American politicians and pundits, wants to ignore. Most non-oil producing countries have gasoline over $5 per gallon. The US refuses to acknowledge all the externalities of petroleum: a huge military infrastructure patrolling the Middle East and waging two wars, the subsidies paid by real estate property taxes to build and maintain all the streets, a significant proportion of the police budget to control traffic, and the increased cost of health insurance because of pollution and vehicle crashes. Let's not forget the bailouts of GM and Chrysler. And depending on your religion, there may be the climate change issues related to CO2.

As Churchill said,  "You can always count on Americans to do the right thing—after they’ve tried everything else."  I just hope we do it in time.

1 comment:

  1. I attended the ammonia as fuel conference in KC a while ago. Enjoyed your blog. As long as we (civilization) don't implode, one can argue that NH3 is a significant and growing component of our global energy matrix. Fertilizer at least. Auto fuel, that will take some serious propagandizing. Think however that given our corporate gullibility (RE carbon)selling something reasonable might work. There are some really good online discussions. I made up a ppt before I realized there were others who were way ahead of me.