Earth's Energy Solution by James Jaeger
The more I study Earth's energy problem the more I am convinced it is solvable.
Here are some basic facts and observations:
1. We will reach peak oil by 2020 and may have already reached it.
2. CO2 build-up and global warming are serious, but potentially reversible given that advanced nano- or bio-engineering will be available later in this century.
3. Continued use of fossil fuels will contribute to CO2 build-up and, as a result, global warming, thus fossil fuels (i.e., oil, coal, natural gas, etc.) are no longer an option.
4. Solar, wind and hydro cannot provide enough energy to meet needs now, let alone when we need 50 terawatts of power per year by mid-century and close to 200 terawatts per year by 2100.
5. Nuclear fission is too dangerous and waste is a serious problem; plus uranium is a limited and non-renewable resource.
6. Some falsely believe plasma fusion is at least 100 years away from deployment, thus insufficient attention is paid to it.
7. The current Energy Establishment may or may not be part of the Next Energy Establishment, but, in fact, all, or most of them, are clearly inhibiting the transition in order to amortize their $10 trillion infrastructure. This infrastructure is probably already amortized (i.e., bank loans paid off), but the current they would never admit this, because to admit it would cause a decrease in profits, so they imagine.
8. The amount of money allocated towards energy research from the annual national budget pitiful and the amount allocated to plasma fusion development is bordering on criminal.
Given 1 - 8 above, as well as the data in numerous books and testimony by investment bankers (such as Matt Simmons), my conclusion is this: PLASMA FUSION supplemented by SOLAR are the only viable, long-term solutions to Earth's energy problem.
If ample sums were allocated each year to the development of plasma fusion (even 10% of what we spend on wars), plasma fusion could be a reality within 20 years. (See ITER at http://www.iter.org) The projection of 100 years would be seen to be pessimistic in light of ample funding for research AND because it doesn't take into consideration the law of accelerating returns.(1) Plasma fusion would give Earth the needed 200 terawatts per year by 2100 and do it without further damage to the biosphere. Large plasma fusion plants could be located safely around the world and in Earth orbit to generate enormous amounts of clean electrical power, power that could be transmitted anywhere. Such plants generate sufficient electricity to crack hydrogen out of water, a virtually unlimited resource on Earth and hydrogen, by far, the most abundant element in the Universe. The hydrogen could then be used, not only to feed the fusion process, but as a "storage medium" for use in fuel cells and/or fuel for internal combustion engines that were adapted for hydrogen. Thus, the transportation industry and electricity-intensive industries could be supplied with limitless amounts of electricity originated from clean, renewable plasma fusion plants.
At the same time plasma fusion is being developed and distributed, nanotech-assisted solar technology could be developed for use in homes and small business. Since a home uses a relatively small amount of energy compared to an automobile, solar energy will soon reach a point where it will be able to supply the needed wattage to run all of the appliances and heating/cooling systems in a house or small business. This technology, with ample funding, will arrive easily by 2010, especially if the public intensifies polical pressure to make it happen.
In summary: homes/small business could be operated on solar energy and heavy industry/transportation could be operated on plasma fusion. Earth's energy problem would thus be completely solved for the foreseeable future and well into the next 500 years by using a coordinated combination of:
A. CENTRALIZED FUSION POWER
B. DISTRIBUTED SOLAR POWER
The combination of FUSION and SOLAR would give the world a virtually infinite amount of clean, inexhaustible energy -- plus the added dividend of enough power to develop high-impulse fusion rocket engines that will be necessary to open the door to the manned exploration of the Solar System and its colonization over the next 500 years.
Given the short- and long-term benefits of a Fusion/Solar Energy Establishment, humanity should immediately begin allocating the necessary financial and intellectual resources to their focused development and deployment.
All else is a waste of time and money.
All fossil fuel technologies are counter-productive.
No energy technology other than plasma fusion will be sufficient.
Economizing is NOT an option for a growing, young planetary civilization.
Since energy is a common need of ALL people and all industries, whether in developed or developing nations, the creation and deployment of A and B should be a WORLD WIDE project. Every country should contribute at least 5% of their annual national budget to this project. Such allocation should be financed by each country cutting their defense budget uniformely across the board by 5% per year or, if they have no defense budget, by reducing their population by 5% per year.
The calculus of this would eventually lead to the INABILITY to wage war and the increased UNDESIRABILITY of waging war as a "solution" to problems. Once war, and those who use and profit from it, are gradually removed from power, civilization will be able to allocate increasing amounts of its energy and productivity to increasing the standard of living on Earth, thus all the "reasons" for war as a "solution" to anything will systematically become obsolete. One of the reasons governments and "leaders" embroil their citizens in war is to secure energy, such as oil, by force, if necessary. Such "reasons" for war become untenable when energy is abundant. In short, wars always destroy more resources than they secure.
If the above steps are taken, the energy dividend will pay off in all industries, making all products and services less expensive and higher in quality. If, while this productivity transformation is taking place, countries lead by the United States, could remove themselves from fiat money standards and re-adopt sound money standards, such as currency redeemable in gold and silver, the excess productivity caused by the energy dividend would not be absorbed by perpetual wars, empire building, government expansion, socialist programs and waste. Thus, benefits would accrue to people and private industry.
The combination of a clean and infinite new Energy Establishment and a Sound Money Establishment would usher in an era of unprecedented prosperity and expansion. The human race would thus, for the first time in history, be in a position to attain full Class I status as a global civilization -- Class I meaning, having the ability to fully and economically utilize the resources of its host planet. Class I status would thus close the door on war as an option for the resolution of conflict and open the door to the remedy of the scarcity of material possessions thus leaving human beings in a position to spend considerably more time pursuing education, entertainment, new product development, spiritual enlightenment and exploration.
All problems, no matter how simple or complex, are related. They are solvable by addressing the problems that have the most common elements first, and then moving down the list of priorities to problems that have no common elements. ENERGY is common to all products, services and human activities. MONEY is common to all products, services and most human activities. Money is a form of energy, thus money and energy are, in many ways, flip sides of the same coin and collectively the most common elements of all of humanities' secular problems. Thus these two problems should be addressed and remedied first but probably simultaneously. If this could happen, a solution to WAR, CRIME, IGNORANCE, WASTE, INEFFICIENCY, MATERIAL SCARCITY, OVER-POPULATION, DISEASE, POLUTION, GLOBAL WARMING, TRANSPORTATION, TRUNCATED-LONGEVITY and all other problems would manifest itself in sequence.
But it all starts by properly solving Earth's Energy Problem.(2)
03 November 2005
(1) Law of accelerating return comes from Ray Kurzweil's book, AGE OF SPIRITUAL MACHINES. It means, due to technology, each year sees greater progress than the previous year, thus each decade of progress is exponential. For instance, roughly speaking, the next 10 years (i.e., 2000 to 2010) will see progress equivalent to the progress made in the last 20 years (i.e., 1980 - 2000). The decade after that (2010 to 2020) will see the equivalent to 40 years of progress (i.e., the progress made between 1970 and 2010.) So FUTURE time is NOT equal to PAST time. (2) See Earth's Energy Problem at http://www.jaegerresearchinstitute.org/articles/energy.htm
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