TED Conversations

Julian Blanco

TEDCRED 30+

This conversation is closed.

Do we really want free/cheap energy?

Do we really want free/cheap energy?

Let’s imagine that one of the current alternative energy efforts where wildly successful and energy cost turned to virtually zero, what would happen then?

My hypothesis is:

The price for stuff would sink
Consumption would multiply exponentially
Earth resources would consequentially be drained exponentially faster as well
We will likely have an environmental catastrophe (possibly threatening our existence)

Today the economic limit of production is the energy price (simplifying here), what if the energy cost didn’t matter?
You could fish the seas faster, build larger boats to do so nonstop, as the steel to build them will be cheaper because the machines to extract ore will be less constrained, and so on.

I would love to hear the perspective of the TED community.

On the other hand, if we use this to expand outside earth, then resource consumption and environmental issues are gone.

Regards!

JB

Share:

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • thumb
    Nov 1 2012: The definition of economics is the study of scarce resources that have alternative uses.

    Point is that as the price of energy falls or becomes more plentiful other items will become more scarce.

    In Napoleon's time aluminum was more valuable than gold then they figured how to make it more economical and it's value plummeted.
    • thumb
      Nov 1 2012: Hi Pat,

      I'm not saying that scarcity will desapeer, in a free energy world gold will still be more scarce than water.

      My question goes to the social and environmental impact of free energy as a whole.

      If you could blow up a full mountain to get 2grams of gold and make 30% profit (assuming current gold prices) how would that impact the world?

      I hope my comment is understadable :)

      Regards!

      JB
      • thumb
        Nov 1 2012: All I'm saying is that something else will become scarce and therefore valuable. If everything fails food, firearms, potable water, blankets will be the most valuable it won't be gold.

        Maybe the most valuable thing will be trees because there is a shortage of oxygen which trees produce or there is too much carbon dioxide which trees absorb.

        But in your scenario it will be something other than energy, your guess is as good as mine.
        • thumb
          Nov 1 2012: Hi Pat!

          So you agree that in case we had free energy the consumption of natural resources would likely accelerate and have a large impact on the environment?

          Do you believe we will be able to self regulate?

          Regards!

          JB
      • thumb
        Nov 1 2012: No I don't agree something else, other resources will become valuable.
        • thumb
          Nov 1 2012: Hi Pat!

          I'm not saying that everything will be equal in value, there will always be scarcity, that's not the point of my argument.
          To understand your point,, you are saying: even if energy where free, some other thing will be scares and that will slow the consumption of planetary resources,
          Is that your point?

          Regards!

          JB
      • thumb
        Nov 1 2012: Yes

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.