TED Conversations

Yvonne Gamble


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Can 15 Technologies change the Clean Energy Landscape in a Post-Fossil Fuel world?

These 15 technologies are, briefly,

1. Higher Vehicle fuel efficiency
2. Mass transit with high-density urban design
3. More Efficient buildings
4. More Efficient baseload coal plants
5. Substitute natural Gas baseload power for coal
6. Capture CO2 at baseload power plant
7. Capture CO2 at a Hydrogen fuels production plant
8. Capture CO2 at a coal-to-synfuels plant
9. Substitute Nuclear power for coal power
10. Substitute Wind power for coal power
11. Substitute Photo Voltaic power for coal power
12. Use Wind power to produce Hydrogen fuels for vehicles
13. Substitute Biomass fuels for fossil fuels
14. Reduced deforestation, and reforestation
15. Conservation tillage (carbon-capturing agriculture) on croplands worldwide

Since 2004 when Pacala and Socolow published in the journal SCIENCE about these 15 technologies, only #1, #3, #5, and #10 have been implemented on any significant scale, and those four are progressing far slower than necessary to achieve a difference in the next 50 years, except for #5 (natural gas, thanks to "fracking" is actually making a difference). The most cost-effective solutions on the list include 3,4,5, 9, and 10: efficient buildings, higher efficiency coal plants, natural gas power, nuclear fission, and wind power. Albeit major energy players in the world are ignoring nuclear fission as an effective tool in this toolbox, with the exception of China and India who still understand-- nuclear energy is at least as likely as wind and solar to be the main post-fossil-fuels energy source. If Western nations had not over-regulated nuclear energy to the point of intentionally strangling it, we would be in a MUCH better position now to slow anthropogenic climate change. 30 years of improvements in nuclear energy safety and cost-effectiveness have been lost.

Do you think any of these 15 will work?
Will there implementation make a difference?
Are these just more examples of hot air for scientists and politicians?


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    Dec 31 2012: I agree with what some of Lejan said, but Natural Gas can also be created by bacteria released into coal reserves as I heard from a TED talk here. Nuclear can also be done to use the other 97% of nuclear material with enough research.
    One talk that I believe should be mentioned here is Amory Lovins 40 Year plan for Energy. Amory advocates soft energy paths like solar and wind renewables. My company (www.insiterenewables.com) manufactures new solar panels to take advantage of on site renewable energy sources in windows and garage doors with photovoltaic window shades, shutters, and louvered solar panels. The production of energy near where its used like a home or office, reduces energy lost in transmission from a central power plant to a customer. It can also reduce the peak load on the grid during peak hours of usage during hot parts of the day (photovoltaic output correlates with A/C Demand)

    Amory also has plans for a hypercar that would be super efficient, The Aptera Car was a streamlined hybrid that was able to get 300mpg. Tesla motors is also working with its sister company Solar city to install Solar Powered electric vehicle stations around the US.

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