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  •  We are also dependent on energy. (none)
    Subtract energy from any equation and we are pre-industrial again.  Animal muscle for transportation and power, wind power for ocean travel.  Sure we can use windmills and nuclear power plants for electricity generation, but for most everything we now use fossil fuels.

    My question is how low can we go?  How far could we cut fossil fuel use and still have a familiar civilization?  How would products get to market? How would steel mills fire their furnaces?  If you tried to supply this country's electricity without any fossil fuels, what would it take?

    We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us.

    by Fabian on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 07:31:20 AM PST

    [ Parent ]

    •  Subtract energy, and there is nothing (4.00)
      Since this is a sceintific thread lets be precise. Horses, People, plants, wind, wave, nuclear etc... all use and output energy.  Aside from nuclear it is all solar.

      You mean subtract fossil fuels aka. ancient stored solar energy... And, things get tricky.  A big problem is in order to minimize disruption, fossil fuels should be used to create the energy sources of the future, i.e. the fossil fuel generated electricity is used to power the factories , mines, trucks, etc... That allows us to make wind turbines, solar panels, nuke plants, and research fusion.

      The goal needs to be the harnessing of plentiful clean energy sources. Solar being the big one, and space based solar being the holy grail.  When energy is plentiful anything is possible.  And, when I say plentiful I mean to point where we are looking for things to do with it.  Like, taking atmospheric C02 and H20 and making hydrocarbons to either use in situations where other energy forms just don't make sense, or put back where we found it.

      Yes, it is a utopian vision, that could be so far out that climate change will kill us before it can be fixed.

      •  I stand corrected. (none)
        Nancy Kress' Beggars in Spain trilogy looks at a number of things, including the impact of abundant and cheap energy.  Cheap energy and sophisticated robotics cause radical shifts in society and economy.  I should reread it again sometime.

        Yes, while fossil fuels are relatively abundant, now is the time to research and invest in more renewable energy technologies and conservation technologies.  Thrifty economies are better economies.  Energy independence means keeping a balanced energy budget.     Can someone explain that to the legislators?  Because the next time I hear "Energy Independence" I'd better hear "mandatory conservation" in the same breath.

        We must never lose it, or sell it, or give it away. We must never let them take it from us.

        by Fabian on Fri Jan 20, 2006 at 12:14:01 PM PST

        [ Parent ]

        •  Conservation a temporary step (none)
          I want real vision from legislators.  conservation is the first step in order to get time to do the hard stuff.

          1. Double the efficiency and halve the cost/sqm of solar energy collection. i.e. 30% efficient cells at half the price of today's 12% efficient cells. The result is 1/4 the cost of current photvoltaics, although by no menas should photvoltaics be the only method pursued.  There may be better methods.

          2. Superconducting electrical transportation especially for long distances.  The southern US has lots of solar so it needs to be moved efficiently.

          3. Hydrogen or some other method of portable energy.  Transportation depends on this.  Man-made gasoline?

          4. Space elevator.  Let's eliminate the cloud problem. And, superconducting transport would mean when one was in shadow others coudl transport eletricity to that location i.e. worldwide elctrical grid.

          Again utopia, but I think the Apollo Energy Alliance is on the right track.

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