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  •  Also, the problem with "truly sustainable" energy (1+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    bryfry

    is that, well, it isn't. The supplies of things like indium and gallium, which are used in both conventional PV solar and emerging nanosolar are far more limited than the supply of uranium and thorium; the production of PV solar also generates significant pollution in its own right. Geothermal wells eventually become depleted. Wind turbines and solar thermal stations require enormous resource inputs to construct. And, needless to say, all of the capital goods used in "free" or "sustainable" energy have a limited usable life and eventually break down. Point is that everything requires inputs of finite resources; such is the nature of the universe.

    Capital investment in nuclear fission, and development of nuclear fusion is, without question, the most sustainable energy track. Is it totally, 100% sustainable for as long as the universe exists? Of course not - but then, nothing is. You simply can't get around it, the nature of nearly all human activity is that we use natural resources, deplete them, and then move on to other resource bases. It's not a problem, provided we use the resources we're depleting to increase our capital investment to get new inputs and leverage new resource bases. In the near term, there's plenty of fissionable nuclear fuel for literally ages. Long-term, we'll of course eventually need to set out developing the rest of the solar system, and so on. The limits are only those imposed upon us by the laws of nature. And, of course, those which we impose on our own imagination and creativity - and of which "sustainability" represents a clear attempt to snuff out.

    Now, even more relevant is the physics of "sustainable" energy. For one thing, we're not really talking about energy here at all; we're talking about power (the ability to do physical work), and energy flux density (amount of energy transferred over a given area over a given time). The sun, for instance, provides us with tons of energy but the power obtained from sunlight is extremely low. Put another way, the economic value of a kilocalorie of energy which can raise 1 liter of water 1 degree kelvin is far, far less than a kilocalorie which is capable of 1 mL of water 1000 degrees kelvin. Transposing physical concepts into economic terms is where people often get confused and think that a calorie is a calorie is a calorie. It's not. Power - measured in watts - is what matters, not energy as such.

    Practically speaking, a strictly "green" policy will result in human civilization plunging back into a new Dark Age, as I discussed here. Accordingly, "green" nonsense will wipe out billions of the world's poor, hence the title.

    Far-left wing and damn proud of it. Check out my blog: The Daily Elitist

    by TylerFromNE on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 12:28:13 AM PDT

    [ Parent ]

    •  Geothermal may or may not be sustainable (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Pluto

      depends on how fast you pull heat out, and if you plan to rotate steam generation over a number of fields.

      The basic heat source is very long lived, from planetary accretion and radioisotope decay both in the core and mantle (thorium and potassium are KREEP elements, as is uranium to some degree).  The trick is not to pull heat out too fast over too large an area.

      •  In this regard, steam is actually a terrible (0+ / 0-)

        heat-mover. A far better one, especially for lower-temperature geothermal sites, are chlorofluorocarbons like R-134a, which is what's used in most car air conditioning systems. In this emerging technology, the boiled CFC's then turn a thin but large-diameter, light-weight aluminum turbine, making for much more economical and sustainable use of geothermal resources.

        However, even though this can go a long ways in resolving the depletion problems, it introduces a whole host of issues vis-a-vis global warming. As it happens, the CFC's used in this process are extremely potent greenhouse gases - I think R-134a is something like 10,000 times more potent than CO<sub>2</sub>. If it stays contained, it's not a problem, but you almost guarantee that if you set up thousands of small geothermal turbines of this sort, you're going to dramatically increase the level of these super-GHG's in the atmosphere.

        Far-left wing and damn proud of it. Check out my blog: The Daily Elitist

        by TylerFromNE on Wed Apr 22, 2009 at 03:42:04 AM PDT

        [ Parent ]

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