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View Diary: Alternative Energy? Sorry - Nowhere Near Enough Available... (49 comments)

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  •  Exactly. (1+ / 0-)
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    Two of the fundamental problems usually ignored are that:

    1. To build an alternative energy infrastructure of the scale required will require, itself, a lot of energy.  Where will that energy and resources come from?  In the past, potential supply of energy and resources (particularly oil and minerals) exceeded demand so it was possible to keep doing everything the industrial system does today and build a new infrastructure.

    Now we're at a point where we don't have spare energy and resources - oil production has been on a plateau for ~7 years and the required minerals aren't bountiful.  That means that to build a huge new infrastructure we need to give up on some large piece of the current industrial system.  Will we give up building cars to build wind turbines?  Or maybe cell phones to build solar panels?  What will happen to the economy when we make that choice?

    2. Alternative energy isn't generally substitutable for what we use fossil fuels for today.  You can't easily produce high-density liquid fuels from non-carbon sources; biofuels aren't much of an option due to low net energy, low capacity, and high land requirements.  That means that our transportation and agricultural infrastructure will require massive changes that will cost a lot and won't in the end deliver quite what oil could.

    I also looked a little bit in my past couple diaries at this question of how we're limited and what the consequences are.

    •  So what should we do? (1+ / 0-)
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      Lie down and die?  

      The answer to your point #1 is to use a fraction of the remaining fossil fuels to make the equipment needed for renewable energy capture.

      For point #2, a large amount of transportation could be handled by electric trains powered by wind and solar.  For farming, diesel engines can be modified to burn anhydrous ammonia, which farmers already use as fertilizer.  Ammonia today is mainly made from natural gas, but a process exists that can use electricity to make it from air and water.  The electricity can be supplied by wind, solar and other renewable sources.  (Thank you Stranded Wind.)

      The big problem is coal, not oil.  If we can stop burning coal for electricity and use renewable power instead, that would be a great deal more than half the energy problem solved.  I hope to see the day when it will be considered unpatriotic to not have photovoltaic (PV) panels on every suitable roof.  

      Renewable energy brings national security.      -6.25, -6.05

      by Calamity Jean on Sun Jun 12, 2011 at 12:38:54 PM PDT

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