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We will NOT find an alternative to energy dense, easily transportable conventional oil in time to sustain indefinate economic growth.

All alternative energies have one or more disadvantages that do not let them compete with cheap conventional oil.

Given our industrial civilization depends on massive amounts of cheap energy, the reliance on conventional oil is enormous.

The only quick solution I see is a drastic downscaling of economic activity.

Topics: energy
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    Feb 11 2013: First of all, we need a solution, but we don't need a quick solution. The oil industry is healthy and can continue on for several decades. Furthermore, I find it sad that your imagination is so limiting - we're presented with a difficult challenge, and your first response is to retreat with a 'drastic downscaling of economic activity.' Is that the best world you can hope for your children to have? Solar energy isn't yet an economic alternative to oil, but it very soon will be. You should also educate yourself on liquid fluoride thorium reactors, a cheaper, safer, far less polluting alternative to conventional nuclear reactors. As we speak, there are other potential alternatives to oil waiting in the wings.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Liquid_fluoride_thorium_reactor
    • Feb 11 2013: I agree that we should start moving to thorium as an energy source. Some of our current reactors can use it, although not as efficiently as a thorium designed reactor.
      The problem with looking at oil as an energy source only, is that it ignores its purpose as a feedstock. We make lots of things out of oil.
      I mean, what will ugly people wear when there is no polyester left???
      The other danger with a longer term solution is our complacency with developing a solution that is not driven by crisis. We just don't
      Another danger is the fluctuating cost of oil as it becomes more difficult to find and refine. A society that relies so heavily on a cheap energy dence power source can become unstable when that power source becomes too expensive. None of us live close enough to farms that we can get our food without a transportation system and farms are heavily mechanized and would have to pass on fuel charges or go out of business.
      I don't see downscaling a viable approach either but a ramping up of research in alternatives using real science (not whatever mental process they used to decide that ethanol was a good idea) is needed and given its long incubation period .... needed quite quickly.
    • Feb 11 2013: A quick solution ensures uninterrupted economic growth. The reason urgent action should be taken is that world conventional oil production has flat lined. Look at where oil companies are tapping new reserves.. tar sands, deepwater, oil shales. There is evidence that the easy to reach fruit has already been picked.

      I would remind you that electricity is not a replacement to oil. Major breakthroughs in batteries must be made for an all electricity economy. The time frame for any viable alternative to be competitive to oil is relatively short.
    • Feb 12 2013: Lawren,
      A downscaling of consumption has benefits you know. I would be happy to see my children live in a world that isn't driven by the need for ever more consumption. I would prefer this change to be voluntary but recognise a good chance it will be market driven.
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    Feb 19 2013: Human beings are alive, at least I think we are (Descartes anyone?). Therefore we are part of, and dependent on, the biosphere, ecology, etc, just as all other forms of life on this planet. The planet and all its "systems", spheres, whatever you want to call them, are limited.

    Life can grow on the planet, but the planet cannot grow, so any life form that does not at some stage stabilize its demand will end up hitting the limits and extinguishing itself - such as the extinction event that formed most of the oil we've been using about 160 million years ago, when the algal blooms grew out of control, turned the oceans toxic and it all died and settled on the shallow Jurassic sea floors, got buried and turned into crude.

    As some have said before, the earth does not negotiate. I would rephrase that, it cannot negotiate.

    Since we conquered the wild bull all those thousands of years ago, we have mentally separated ourselves from nature, with the idea that we control it, but that is just hubris.

    Economic growth depends on using more and more resources. We already use more, and create more waste, than the planet can process.If we keep it up, we'll go the same way as any other plague. We will crash. Belief that growth can continue is akin to alchemy.

    Oh, and as for the flea on the elephant.... let's see how the elephant handles 7 billion fleas, with 1 billion armed with technology like jackhammers.... get it? :)

    If we are really as smart as we think we are, we can develop a new economy, that is not dependent upon consumption.

    As for energy, solar provides far more than we need. Every hour we receive the amount of energy humanity uses in a year, delivered right to out doorsteps, and solar thermal plants in Spain have proven it can deliver 24/7 using heat storage. It is NOT intermittent!

    Instead of trying to sustain the unsustainable, let's look at the scientific limits - and THEN apply the ingenuity we boast! It is WE that have to change!
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      Feb 19 2013: Actually, my one flea counted as all of us.... :-0

      And probably that is the problem. To many of us think that we are the alpha and omega.
      I say in planetary terms , not so much.

      But, this current crusade that mankind should shut done fossil fuel use... ASAP to save the planet is a little over done. To put the brakes on in the manner insisted may cause a sudden halt to the evolution of civilization. The last time that happened in 500 AD, the following 500 years was
      called the Dark Ages. Not a nice time for the western half of the world as history tells.

      So, we need to have a well planned method to achieve an energy source that will continue the evolution of civilization in such a manner as not to upset the flow in the transition... and we only have a few centuries to make it happen.
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        Feb 20 2013: Mike, I think that you grossly underestimate the impact that our technology allows us to impinge on the planet and its resources. Alpha and Omega? A few button pushes in 1962 and we would not have been having this conversation. So we had the power of Aplha and Omega 50 years ago.

        It is not just about fossil fuels. Back in the '60s and '70s, I remember well, the talk was about the "vast untapped resources of the oceans" being the salvation to any Malthusian dilemma ... after all, they are bigger than the total land mass. Just like your "Flea on an elephant", the phrase "just a drop in the ocean" indicted how vast they were and thought to be invincible. Just look at what we have accomplished there.....

        http://www.ted.com/talks/jeremy_jackson.html

        http://www.abc.net.au/catalyst/stories/3583576.htm "Anything really that comes out of the ocean you cannot certify that as organic any longer." YIKES!

        By the way, I noted in a comment above that you mentioned the 1970's "Global Cooling/Ice Age", I remember that as well. Check here...

        http://www.newscientist.com/article/dn11643-climate-myths-they-predicted-global-cooling-in-the-1970s.html

        So you are in error if you blame scientists when it was really the media that fooled you! Some scientists will make mistakes (they're human too, after all), but that is what the "peer review" process irons out.

        What will plummet is back to the "Dark Ages", or even worse, will be a continuation of our current course.

        You talk of "evolution of civilization", but you must realize that evolution is about change, not continuation of "business as usual". We have better ways at our disposal, but we keep trying to resuscitate our outdated economy.

        We do need to have a well planned method to change, but the energy source is there in abundance, and the technology is there as well. What is missing is the will, and the wisdom, to actually do it.

        It's not about preserving the past, it's about moving forward toward a better future
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          Feb 20 2013: Marc,
          On a global scale, we (mankind) ain't nothing. We could possible do ourselves in and take some critters with us but mother earth would never miss us, maybe if it could speak would probably say " Who? What?"

          Don't mean to be critical, but you suffer from that most egregious of all human maladies...
          a over exaggerated sense of importance.
          I am not criticizing you, I had it too. But the cure came to me while walking on a beach on Lanzarote. I found this pool of water. I stuck my finger in it and pulled it out quickly to see what size a hole I could leave in the pool. Well, you can guess the outcome. I came to the realization that none of us have really any importance in the grand scheme of things.
          But, all is not lost. My Rabbi friend tells me that me that one day we will all be taken to heaven. Which gives me some solace... someone thinks we are important even if it just my rabbi friend.

          What I am saying is that we need to proceed on a new source of energy and we have a couple of hundred years to get it done or we are done civilization wise. What we can't do is stop dead in our tracks with the use of fossil fuels as has been proposed so many times in so many ways.
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    Feb 17 2013: Considering the global situation, the haste to find alternative energy sources to sustain economic evolution may make waste. Most of the global nations are not industrial. Many will never be. Considering the situation of industrial nations today, there are enough available resources in the form of coal, oil and gas to sustain us all for an estimated 200 hundred years projected on current estimates of population increases. Concurrently, there is even more energy that could be made available in the form of reactive generation. We also have available other sources, ie. wind and solar although these are limited resources. There is no need to return to a simpler life style unless you choose too.
    Should mankind fail to develop a sustainable energy source in the next few hundred years, then we deserve to return to living in the caves.
    • Feb 17 2013: Yes, coal can sustain us for quite some time... But what about the costs? I can only assume you haven't accepted man made global warming, but as others have said, the price of oil keeps going up. So even without the cost to our planet, aren't you getting sick of lining the wallets of middle eastern billionaires with your own money? As for reactive, well there's no way to make it safe... Just look at that Japanese reactor damaged by an earthquake.

      I know that right now renewables cost more.... But patience, if you browse all the scientific news out there, you can't help but feel that a revolution is coming. So many groups out there working on new & better ways to harness renewables.
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        Feb 17 2013: OK, one at a time.
        1. I don't believe in man made global climate change. I believe that global climate is a dynamic that is based on solar and stellar forces that even Hawkins is still trying to figure out.
        I do believe in man made regional pollution. 20 mil. slobs living in the LA basin ruining one of the most beautiful gardens in the world.
        2. Oil is a commodity and is priced by supply and demand. It is only worth what we are willing to pay for it. We have short sighted suppliers who are looking for the quick buck and long looking suppliers who to sustain their market. May the latter win.
        3. There is no way to make any great concentration of energy safe. Consider the failure of the Hoover Dam. One wag said "only in death are you perfectly safe". There is risk in life, you can step in front of a bus tomorrow.
        4. Renewables? What are renewables?
        Bio? that's smart, we use food or lands to grow food for fuel... I got a full tank, but can't go anywhere because I am staving to death.
        Wind and solar? Inconsistent. that means it needs something to balance supply and then needs to be transmitted. Electrical transmission is a huge loss. Sure, the fuel is free, getting it there is outrageous.
        5. We got enough energy, just not using it smartly. As a global society, we keep going after the low hanging energy fruit.

        So, We use coal and gas for energy. Coal and gas can be transported anywhere with no loss in energy capacity. Focus on LNG and fuel cells for transportation. We need to be-careful with oil, there are too many other products we never consider that are based on oil.
        "man-made global warming"? If the energy put into that effort had been placed in the mitigation of particulate from smokestacks, they would all smell like rose bouquets. But then again, environmentalists are not chemists.
        • Feb 17 2013: Yeah well I'm from bundaberg Australia. I believe we've recently been on the news everywhere. This year we got the biggest flood on record. The river here flowed over, not just rose over, but ripped through the northern half of our small city & now it looks like an apocalyptic war zone. On top of that, 6 known twisters along our coast hit coastal communities. Bear in mind Australia doesn't have a 'tornado allie', & I've only ever heard of one other in my life time.

          Just two years ago we were hit with the 3rd biggest flood on record, which was only slightly behind the 2nd biggest in 1974. Two weeks before the most recent flood our whole country endured the highest ever recorded heat wave over a period of just over a week.

          I know we're just one small part of the globe, but from what I understand no one is arguing anymore about global temperature rise of 1deg and rising, only what's causing it. And I think to ignore the experts and assume we're not having at least some affect amounts to burying our heads in the sand and pretending its not happening.
  • Feb 16 2013: Even if economic activity is reduced, this does not necessarily mean that our quality of life will lessen.

    Many contend that we in the richer nations can improve our quality of life by reducing our economic consumption. For example, the majority of people in the USA could improve their health and quality of life by using automobiles less and getting more exercise by walking or bicycling. We could improve our diets by obtaining our food locally, which would reduce transportation. A simple thing like watching less television could improve the quality of our leisure time. All measures which improve our health will lead to spending less on medical care, a form of economic activity. As the price of energy increases, many people will be forced to reduce their monetary expenditures in other areas, but by making wise choices, this might lead to a higher quality of life.

    In the USA, our current practices involve such huge amounts of waste that we could absorb a considerable increase in the price of energy just be reducing the waste.

    You seem to think that this is a very urgent problem, but you do not make it clear just what time scale you are thinking about. I cannot imagine that this will result in "drastic downscaling" within the next twenty years.
    • Feb 16 2013: I shouldnt have made it sound like I was concerned with loss of economic growth. I agree with your contentions.

      I wrote it because most cant imagine an economy not growing. Our monetary system has a necessity of growth built into it and cheap energy ensures growth.
  • Feb 15 2013: I once read somwhere that there was a vast amount of energy in 1 cubic metre of seawater.

    I think that peak oil has come and gone long ago, fuel prices, gas prices will not get better, only worse as the reserves run towards empty,
    is this a problem, i think it is,
    is this a lifestyle changer, absolutely.

    I agree that the downscaling of economic activity is a positive step to sustaining the existing 1st world lifestyles, however, it then begins the countdown to destruction, as we are sooooo dependent on oil and its products and byproducts, at the current rate, it would take almost 20 years to affect a usable alternative, this is because of two distinct reasons:

    1: People dont like change and are afraid of anything new, this is quite silly, but comes from the primal identifying system which acts to fight or flight, we are no longer hunter/gatherers, we are shabby, shic shoppers carrying man bags and drinking soda's, we have air conditioning and hair dryers, cell phones and apps to keep us amused all day, facebook and other social media connections, we have attempted to ëvolve" but have lost the ability to hunt and gather, to feed ourselves, look how long it took to sell automobiles to every household in the country?
    so we dont like change in a quick pace, we are afraid of change and tackling "problems".

    2: People are often lazy, "ïf it aint broke, dont fix it", well its broke, it has been for a while now, but we havent yet fixed it, we havent agreed on a transition to an alternative, we grasp at straws, we invent, we develop, we spend, all the while we use, use, use, more more more.
    use goes up, supply lowers, and the difficulty is increased, the incentive is not clear enough in peoples minds, so they sit, they wait, they watch, some dare not try, some disappear while trying to patent, this is what we are.


    we have lost hunter gatherers, but gained the worship of money, why i ask?
    • Feb 15 2013: Lionel, I agree with your points.

      There is going to be a long lag time from an oil based economy to whatever is next (If there is a next). Like you said fuel prices are set only to get more expensive. Since conventional oil production is on the decline the need for implementation of a viable alternative is now, or 10 years ago!
  • Feb 15 2013: Brian: and by the way, we still have time, especially since natural gas usage can tide us over for awhile.
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    Feb 14 2013: Non linear systems are very hard to predict.
    Firstly, we have the ecosystem (including geosphere, hydrosphere, atmosphere and biosphere).
    Secondly we have the human value economy.
    Then we expect to be able to control the combination of these 2 massively chaotic systems?

    There is a ton of science dedicated to this problem, and no one can say.

    But there are limits. Just how many natural disasters can be withstood by economic infratructure?
    And what of the in-built tipping points in economy .. Fukashima for instance. Many countries have hundreds of Fukashimas just waiting to poison large patches of the "spheres" for thousands of years.
    What happens when the USA food machine gets irradiated, blown over by tornados, droughts and floods?
    Can't eat cars.

    Downscaling appears to be built-in - weather we like it or not ;)

    Having non-linear solutions such as renewables might buy us some time .. but think: if we do solve the "clean energy" conundrum, then we will still be increasing the raw energy injection into our spheres .. no one seems to be talking about that ... why not?

    SO the 350ppm CO2 is false - it has to be a continuous reduction beyond that to allow all this "clean energy" to escape to space.

    Entropy will have its way. Economy cannot withstand it.

    Downsize is not the answer - the answer is to re-join the ecology. And it will hapen anyway - as a species or as compost.

    The choice is whether we go gracefully or disgracefully.
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    Feb 12 2013: I agree with this idea and we need to do it now. I'm doing it in my home with very little problems. It's much easier than i thought, but the bills just keep growing larger to keep up with my declining energy use.

    The only real win, win situation is total, off the grid living.
    Check out the youtube videos. People are doing it more and more and enjoying it more, also. It's doable.
    • Feb 14 2013: Welcome to Africa, John. :)

      Interestingly I was watching a video on here the other day, with kids (7-10) playing in the streets, no iphones, no ipads, and yet amazingly they were all happy and smiling. Who knew?

      Sadly and disappointingly I dont see that on the faces of kids in NY.
    • Feb 15 2013: John: Living "off the grid" means more or less like living like the Amish do. While you and I might be up to that,it is a certainty that billions of people in the developing world are not at all interested in going back to being Peasants. And efforts to talk them into "Carbon Caps" etc. are doomed to fall flat.
      But finding pollution free energy "Cheaper than Coal" could enable a civilised life for everyone. Look up Thorium Liquid Fueled Reactor" (LFTR). It has already been demonstrated to work..
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        Feb 15 2013: I think the Amish don't use electricity as a matter of choice.

        You can live off the grid anyway you like. I will be using electicity, natural gas, and have cooling and heating. Off the grid can mean using 25k watt fuel cells to produce home size electical power. It is the coming thing. Most poor Africans won't have this luxury of course.

        I don't really think there is a solution for Africa.

        Of course you can live like a peasant if you like; in America you are free to choose.

        Thorium is an exciting idea. I've read some interesting writeups about it. It makes you wonder why it's not being used, but, we know why....
      • Feb 16 2013: The Amish don't all live off the grid. They use Gasoline, and oil, they are even starting to use electricity and phones. They also have been corrupted.
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          Feb 23 2013: All life is corruption. You either learn to live in it or you are doomed.
  • Feb 24 2013: How would you survive, maybe Create energy in small amounts and work up. Like they had to do in the early years. can I just ask How would your subscribers cope without internet and electricity. Possibly you cannot see the Future as a worker can see it . Take a step back and REALLY think LOGICALLY. Our Ancesters made Great Strides without computers WHY can't we OR have we really lost our Knowledge to computers
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      Feb 24 2013: I know I have made the argument that current energy generation is based on business models and the profit motive is the driving factor. Further, I have noted that that the "Climate Change" crisis has about as much validity as the last "Climate Change" crisis in the 70s, but let's open up this discussion globally.
      7 billion people.
      1 Billion in China
      India: 1 billion,
      Islamic states: 1 billion
      Western States (USA, Europe, British Commonwealth) S Korea, Japan, Taiwan, 1 Billion,
      The rest of the World, over 3 billion

      If we look at this list you will see 5 groups who all have differing goals, visions, needs and wants.
      Only the Western States have made promises to control the use of Fossil Fuels and have undertaken active roles in the diminished use. The other states have encouraged the promised reductions. There is a finite amount of these fuels available and if the western states cut back... more for them.

      So, if we do cut back and don't find a suitable, usable replacement source of energy, we will be living like our ancestors or worse yet, be working for and at the pleasure of one of the other groups. And I am not sure great strides will be required.
      If there is some question about the sense of humanity in man, a morality or a spiritually, I wish I could be more optimistic, but,when we look at the history of our species, not good. I think we are the only animal that kills for the sake of killing.
  • Feb 23 2013: Can I just say as a humble low priority worker look at life and how it is lived to find all your answers you all look for the difficult answers but look at the archeology its all there. You have nothing on the ancients, Don't forget they Didn't have our technology but can you explain their measurements, foresight, and accuarcy and craftmanship EXPLAIN THAT from us mere mortals whodon't know no better.
  • Feb 23 2013: nope a drastic downscaling of attitudes that see oil in terms of pure money and people in terms of customers and not fellow humans. indefinate economic growth is a myth and as i tell my students - unless we start looking after thius little blue dot - our children's children - wont have one. cheap oil is the only solution? put a windmill and solar panel on everyone house and them tell them how to use ventilation systems and thermostats. design houseand homes not freeze dried boxes and let children suggest the way forward. keep it simple stupid
    • Feb 24 2013: I agree, but the media and everyone else in power will tell you the opposite. They will tell us drill baby drill or we need the jobs. A lot of people will believe this bull crap.
  • Feb 23 2013: It's sad, although possibly quite realistic to consider (and not to naively deny) that humanity's adverse impact has already gone too far at this point in history. Besides that being said, we still have an obligation, a responsibility to try and recover what we can, and to remember that have so many solutions and most of the neccesary discoveries have already been made. In terms of energy, we must identify the issue as being one centered on improper implementation (as opposed to an inability to implement) and the obstacle of the colossal inertia of the fossil fuel industry... Lets all remember Nikola Tesla for starters, a largely forgotten genius... The myth is that we don't have the ability and the technology. There is enough evidence out there to show that it is simply being suppressed and hidden.
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      Feb 23 2013: Has humanity really had an adverse impact that is not recoverable? Most of our adverse impacts are self inflected wounds. All humanity has to do is stop beating it's head against the wall so to speak.
      In terms of energy, Are we still beating that dead horse of fossil fuel industry is a fossil ? In the last 15 years, The FF industry has surged in development of bigger and better extraction processes that have increased production and maintained market levels. And rest assured, the if any of the big FF companies could find a better way to produce energy and make a profit, they would be all over it. And yes, it's about profit. Think about it. Why would some one spend millions of dollars to drill for oil, process it through a billion dollar refinery, deliver it to a $250K gas station and you fill your tank for free or even cost.? Why would anyone do that?
      But, let's go farther then. No fossil fuels. No transportation, no electricity. Wait a minute, we light our homes with candles? We ride horses? We heat the house with wood fires? No fire, wood is a fossil fuel. Renewable? Yes, but the smoke is a pollution, climate change....
      So! No, communications, computers, Ipads, cell phones, air conditioning, airplanes, cars. the list is forever.
      That's not going to work, so we can substitute other stuff for fossil fuels. But, at best, other stuff cost twice as much as FF. Yes, sunlight and wind is relatively free but getting it there to your light bulbs is costly.
      So, everyone gives up some electrical or transportation service. Who choses? Politicians? Environmental Scientists? Hidden and suppressed laboratory icons? No, your wallet.
      And that's life. .
      • Feb 24 2013: Thanks for the reply,
        I do agree that a large percent of our activity's impact results in self inflicted wounds, but my point was suggesting that our overall attitude and habits as a global community don't show many (or enough) signs that we will stop "beating our heads against the wall". I'm aware that Earth will end up recovering from whatever we do to it over the time of our existence.
        And I agree as well that, undoubtedly, the energy game is all about profit. I hope that we've had this fact cross our minds as being "potentially" an inherent problem with our energy dilema. I know that way of speaking doesn't settle very well with many, but I believe that competition and profit will always get in the way of any rational decision being made by humanity for the greater good of itself as a whole.
        Maybe the profit system has gotten in the way of our drive for creativity in the energy sector. Most of the alternatives are not being given enough attention and resources by governments and scientists to become competitive, although that shouldn't come as a suprise given the nature of the capitalist game. I guess it depends on where our morals lay and what our priorities consist of. Maybe once they've been thouroughly accessed we'll understand why we haven't come up with an energy alternative that can be made as abundant, economically feasible and easily accessable.
        And, unfortunately, that's life, (for now).
      • Feb 24 2013: Mike, the FF industry has picked the easy to reach fruit and now has to use a ladder (so to speak). Price of a barrel of oil reflect this. There certainly is more oil to produce but the FF industry will have to invest more capital to get it. The result is that oil prices have stayed high.

        We pay the higher price because it would cost even more to change our infrastructure to use some other energy system.
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          Feb 24 2013: Brian,
          You are right on. Cost of production is increasing, but output is all up, the the rise in price will / should not spike unless of political BS (who knows) . Now we have two energy problems, power and transportation. not only the fuels, but the distribution. For ex. we have about 60,000 gas stations in the US and how many LNG or electric charging stations? It took 100 years to get to this number of gas stations. Same story with power distribution. Our national grid is 100 years old and running at about full capacity. A lot of yelling and screaming about "renewable" energy sources, Solar and wind are mostly free, but to get it in electricity is costly. And my favorite is "bio" Right! We use food or land to grow food for fuel. Great. I can fill my tank while I starve to death.
          We got maybe 200 years to get an energy source that can sustain our current ...not economy or the 1% , our civilization. The alternative is a book called the "History of Western Civilization" will become a dusty library reference.
  • Feb 22 2013: After I read all the comments here, I believe that the solution of energy resources shortage, as well as as the hot topic of greenhouse effect for global warming, really hinges upon the "use" of the earth capacity for the survival of the human kind. In my view, the earth will not be possibly support the human population if we keep on multiply many fold as of the present size. Remember that the ecological load of one person at the present time with respect to consumption of food, in broad sense, and other resources in addition to the dwellings and roads, is at least 10 times larger than that of one man 3000 years ago. So the basic problem is not only the energy shortage but also whether we will reach a limit that the earth can no longer support the ever increasing load of humans on earth. It is true that the increase of human population, at least in percentage, is slowing down, but still increase in number. And we have added on more load due to the ever increase the use of resources, including the oxygen-in-and-CO2-out in the atmosphere by various human activities..
    essentially we should look at this head on as soon as possible. Yes, downscaling the economic activity is part of the solution, and reducing the use of limited resources including energy AND forestry and, perhaps, drinking water. But all of these will heavily depend on the limiting the population growth as well, or at least the increase of human population will not destroy the "population" of plants in forestry. Of course, use of renewable resources is helpful, but if this activity involves destroying large acres of forestland, than this won't be "cost-benefit" effective.
    Let me also comment on the current government policy of greenhouse gas control or taxes. That's just too little and too late for the global warming theory in comparison to the suggestion above.
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      Feb 22 2013: You have hit a "nerve". All of this conversation has been based on the sustainment of people and their continuation of civilization which could be measured by economic growth. I have stated that the planet earth is not effected by the "commotion " on it's surface. That global climate. volcanic activity, plate movement, solar radiation, etc. are all pretty much out of our control and adaptation is the only method of survival.
      I believe we have the technology to adjust our environment; purify water, manage waste, devise energy sources, etc., before we get to the society of "Salient Green". (One of the most terrifying films ever made)
      What concerns me is a phenomenon I found in history I don't fully understand. Where did the Mayans go?
      That great civilization that was to have existed in Central Africa. A number of large communities of North American and South America, Incas, Aztecs? Some have said that the civilizations are gone, but the people are left and have blended into other societies. OK, but too much leftovers from those civilizations and not enough leftover peoples when you do the counting.
      So, is there some instinctive switch in man that limits his existence in an overcrowded environment? We know that mice in an overcrowded cage will stop reproducing and turn to cannibalism. Or, will Planet earth and cosmic forces cause a global extinction as happened about 65 million years ago? Will there be some disease that sweeps the world? Will our greed or survival instinct involve us into horrific wars that annihilate great numbers of us? I know it's a long shot, but I hope Ray Bradbury had a vision and in 500 years, we'll have the means to travel and warp time to resettle new worlds.
      Hey, I am allowed wistful thinking.
      • Feb 22 2013: Thank you for your response, and I appreciate you additional explanation of the contention of the original topic. I agree wholeheartedly that there have been previous views of the disappearance of human cultures before our time. Heck even some quite credible history of the disappearance of the dinosaurs too. That possibility is exactly what my previous comment was based.
        Referring to your citation of space travel and settlement of humans on some remote planets. This is quite possible but that depends on the race of which comes first between the 2 events; the destruction of the earth ecology or the perfection of the time-warp space travel. However, even if the latter becomes reality in the future, my computing about the probability and the size of .such out-migration should be no more than a few thousand human passengers, so that's still the end of the remaining existing human civilization on earth anyway. That's still a sad story, Isn't it?
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          Feb 23 2013: If I were to see the future, I would see a mass exodus of few thousand people to a distant planet as the mass extinction event occurs. That's the good news. the more likely event of a mass extinction of mankind can come at anytime and we are not prepared. A super volcano eruption, a large meteor strike, a new virus, another world war?
          What I don't see is a all the hype about "global climate change:" that is todays popular crisis. I've survived the generational global destruction scenario for the last couple of generations.
          And in each case the scientists were really sure that they were correct.
          Having said that, there are regional areas that we've crowded into and really trashed the local environment.
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      Feb 23 2013: I actually addressed this above...
      "Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.5 planets to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. This means it now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year." - http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/world_footprint/

      People do not understand the concept because when they look around they do not readily see the problem.

      I'd like a dollar for every time I've heard on discussion panels, etc, the preposterous notion that development fixes the pollution problem, because the people end up in clean cities.

      This is stated by people that live in the "nice" parts of cities, work in the pretty CBD,etc.

      Yep, it looks squeaky clean and hunky dory, but when you look in poor areas, like impoverished villages and squatter cities, you can see the dirt and squalor that people endure. So the false logic follows that if they were to be elevated to a life as rich as ours, then they'd live in squeaky clean cities too! This is also applied to the poorer neighnourhoods in our cities!

      The illusion is created by "out of sight, out o mind". The dirt and waste from our environment has been moved by such services as garbage collection services and street sweepers, and moved somewhere else. Somehow, they don't notice the industrial areas, etc.

      It is just like sweeping the dirt under the carpet.

      However, any study will show the opposite to be true. Those in affluent societies consume far more per capita of every resource and produce far more "dirt" than the poor do, and the rates rise with income.

      Landfills hide waste, but it is common for regulators to not allow residential areas to be built on previous landfills. They are zoned as "toxic" for a reason!

      We need to reduce consumption and start treating "waste" as resources.

      Semantics are funny. A new term, "mining landfills" arose because "recycling" has become associated with frugality, and we like to think we are richer and richer!
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    Feb 21 2013: This is a concern of mine as well but I do think that with as many brilliant minds as there are, if enough energy, time, money, and focus were given to the task, it could be accomplished! You have to believe and hope that people have a chance to change.
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      Feb 21 2013: You would think so. But, in the words of the great American philosopher Pogo
      " I have met the enemy and he is us"
      Seriously, Mankind has been challenged in the development of his civilization time and again..
      Was it Santiago who said that those who fail to read their history are doomed to repeat it.
    • Feb 23 2013: Here are some comment to Scarlet. Your notion of solution to the energy or, more importantly the shortage of resources of healthy living should have a "chance to change" for the better, I presume. But, who have the energy, time money and, more importantly the know-how to improve the eg, garbage disposal or the air pollution. The people in the ghettos hardly are aware of the problems, and additionally they simply don't have the money , the motive and the know-how to tackle these problems. The people living in the "clean area", like what Mark was saying, have no motive to work on these problems, even if they have the money, energy and the know-how, because they don't have the problems of that kind.
      Let's look at a few examples, In most of the major cities, the elite residents usually live in the clean side of the city center opposite and upwind from the industrial area, than the ghetto dwellers will occupy the buffer zone between the industrial area and the clean zone. Example, Chicago have the lakeside for the elite population because there usually are norther wind from the lake throughout most of the year. In the city of Houston, the elite live in the west and northwest opposite to the industrial zone and the ship channel.. Where are the ghettos? They are right to the east of downtown and west of the Industrial area. So those live in the west and northwest don't have to worry about air pollutants, smells from the industry, as well as the garbage dump site at the far east of the city. I don't say that the city governments won't try their hands on improving the health of all residents, but there are only that much they can do., short of moving the groups around by compulsory orders.
      But, the earth ecological system really can't isolate the use of all the resources for all the different units or subgroups. If we reduce the CO2 emission here, but the Chinese or Indians increase theirs, then that'll be a wash, and the global warming problem won't be solved.
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    Feb 21 2013: Let me speak of wind and solar power.
    Again, my perception is limited by my locality and may not be applicable in other parts of the world. I do think the issues and problems may have global reach.
    Texas is a large state in the USA nearly 1500 km from north to south and 1500 km east to west. The northern area are high plains where winds blow sufficiently to viably generate wind power.. A wealthy Dallas business man invested nearly a billion dollars in 400 wind generators to be erected on the high plains to bring electricity to Dallas about 900 km to the east..
    He managed to get 100 installed before he maximized the transmission line capacity. He could not get easements for new transmission line to carry the additional generated power. He has 300 wind generators for sale cheap.
    South Texas is a low land plain that is slowly becoming a desert. The sun shines over 300 days a year. The largest power company in this area was faced with replacing two very old coal power plants they had on line. There is a nearby nuclear power station where they currently purchase about 25% or their power to support the company owed gas and coal power plants. Feasibility studies etc. but the the loud vocal cries of the global warming crowd "convinced" the company to build one of the largest solar farms currently on line. They justified it because the Federal government was regulating coal out of existence and the project cost of natural gas was heading out of sight even though geologists had told of huge gas fields literally under the area of the solar field. The decision was made to built the solar plant. The gas field was exploited and the cost of gas fell by 2/3s.
    End of the story, the Global Warming Group has a great solar farm to brag on, the company raised rates to customers
    to cover the cost of the solar plant that they can never recover and the company officials making this choice lost their jobs.
    It isn't easy being green.
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      Feb 21 2013: G'day Mike,

      The first example is really down to bad business practice - fail to plan, plan to ail. I've run my own business and whenever I was implementing a new installation, I made sure that everything was checked before I bought anything.

      Surely the guy could have checked the capacity of the link before he bought the turbines!

      From what I know of the US, the country really needs a true national grid. You guys put a man on the moon, not once, but a few times, and just put a rover on Mars. Surely you can work out how to get a better solution for a national grid.

      Having this then gives you many options, for example, in Germany, they have turned their electricity system upside down. Renewables come on first to create baseline (eventually), and conventional generation only comes on to meet the demand that the renewables cannot supply, the peaks. There aim is to be totally renewable by 2030, from memory.

      The second example seems to be an investment paradigm problem. Solar is a long term investment with a high initial capital investment that will produce profits in the long run. Depending on the technology and energy prices, the break even ROI period usually can vary from 3 years to a decade.

      If the initial capital investment is amortized correctly to reflect this, prices should be able to be kept at market to maintain the customer base. Raising prices in an attempt to reduce the ROI period, will reduce the customer base (if they have a choice of suppliers).

      If this was not done properly, then it is obvious that problems will arise. I don't believe the cost can't be recovered, that'd mean they're insolvent.

      Gas prices will rise and fall, as all commodities do, so in the long run the should will win out, as once it has paid for itself, there is no fuel cost, which is obviously less than any fuel price.

      So, as we've said before, there is a lot of planning that needs to be done to enable what is possible. Unfortunately, there is lots of talk and little action
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        Feb 22 2013: Hi Mark, T. Boone Pickens is a multi billionaire, who doesn't usually make such mistakes. But he also got caught by the Eagle Ford Gas field. The state was going to build the new transmission line and get land by eminent domain, but when the Dallas energy companies could buy gas and generate at half the cost of the wind power, the state bailed.
        Eagle Ford will provide more gas then Texas can use in 200 years
        The numbers on the solar field is that the LRCA brings power in at $0.08 pkw., nuclear is bought at $0.056, gas and coal is at < $0.04. over the next 25 years. The plan is to use the panels for high demand during summer months. but the best they know is that it will be a loss and they will probably never build another solar field.
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          Feb 22 2013: Bloody state screwed it up! I hate it when gov. start something then mismanage and change it into a sucker play! I had enough of that with the Fed. Gov. here with broadband incentives. I was delivering wireless and satellite broadband to rural areas, but they made it increasingly more difficult until it was unfeasible, but you were bound to maintain services to existing customers. Screwed!

          On the solar, if they'd gone the same technology as SEGS in California, which is the biggest solar thermal in the world, and also natural gas at night (these are older 1980's plants and don't have the heat storage as far as I know), then they would have been fine. If they were using PV panels, it is problematic as, although cheap, it is hard to store energy to maintain 24 hour delivery.

          That would have made a huge difference to the viability.

          Actually, this is an example of where the free market is misleading and actually shows its weakness. Because of the huge drop in PV prices over the last few years, many jump and see that as "the way to go", wWhereas I, being a geeky tech-head, say, "Nope, solar thermal gives you the options of solar and/or alternative fuels such as gas or biomass, and you ALWAYS need more than one string to your bow!".

          People say "let the market decide". Hmm, that is like the stuff you find to south of a north-bound bull!

          You have the thing between your ears for making decisions, and you should always have options because nothing is more fickle than the market, which can trend reverse whatever and often for no valid reason! Letting the market decide is an abdication of responsibility, as far as I am concerned.

          Just an aside..... I love hearing economists and analysts come up with "reasons" for certain market events.... I am sure that they look at a news paper somewhere and pick a reason, any reason, after the event, and different economists and analysts will have different reasons, but very rarely do they manage to actually predict these events.
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    Feb 21 2013: To Mike Colera,

    I agree wholeheartedly Mike. Have you checked out the DESERTEC proposals?

    Sure, over here we are making a mint from coal, and we have plenty of uranium. But I'd only support nuclear if the technology Bill Gates is talking about is feasible - any waste that requires "baby sitting" for 300.000 years is absolutely stupid, and it is NOT "clean energy"! (Bill's talk here .... http://www.ted.com/talks/bill_gates.html )

    But my country could also make a mint from solar. We have the next best resources after the Sahara and could actually export power to Indonesia and Southeast Asia, like DESERTEC are looking to do from North Africa to Europe.

    Your transmission problems are nowhere near as big as ours. We have most of the nation on a grid, including undersea to Tasmania and our nation is only sightly smaller than your 48 states, with less than 7.2% of your population to fund it!

    Over the last 4 years, they upgraded the grid to cover the peaks (summer afternoons) and that doubled the cost of electricity. That of course dropped usage and now that overhead is not needed, but we are still paying for it!

    Now, that peak was caused by people switching on the air con when they got home.... so that means if they had implemented a solar panel program to offset air con (e.g. got a 3kW air con, gotta have 3kW of panels), they would have killed the peak at the source. (Apparently they did something like this in Canada.) Oh, but our stupid Governments CUT the solar panels program!! Transmission here is run by Govt - private is just not feasible with the low population density so they cut their noses off to spite their faces.

    So now we pay through the nose for headroom in the transmission system that is never used!

    Did you check out my post above regarding having to cover the "value add" portion of the input side of the energy economics? If we don't start serious work to address these problems NOW, they'll sit on the back burner, and that will cost us BIG long term!
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      Feb 21 2013: Sorry Mark, for some reason, I thought you were from Great Briton. Your geographical situation is like ours, except we got a greater bunch of fruits and nuts. I have also heard that you are blessed or cursed with abundant natural gas. The Danes have developed a fuel cell like a small refrigerator that has 12 KW output.
      They have shown that transmission of natural gas (a pipeline) is cheaper then electrical transmission with no energy loss in the process, so electrical power is made right at the residence or business (bigger cells).
      So, like Canada, the wealth of your nation will be in raw materials as opposed to great industrial centers
      Canadians have looked to very specialized manufacturing which seems to be highly profitable. Today, our northern neighbor is sitting pretty with out all the turmoil. I'd move there except for all that snow.
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        Feb 22 2013: You thought I was a Pom? Them's fightin' words, partner! ;) (G'day to any Poms reading this :P )

        Mike, the BlueGen methane fuel cell was developed in Melbourne a few years back, but at around $30k it hasn't caught on here, (you could go off-grid with PV for half that here) so now it's manufactured in Germany, under the Australian license.

        Thing is, I hate it when I see our stuff going overseas like that. We should make it here and export. Unfortunately, a lot of Australian business is way too short sighted. If you can dig it up and sell it for a quick buck, go for it, anything else.... "looks too hard, mate."

        When China stops buying our dirt and rocks, that short-sightedness will turn around and bight us where the sun don't shine!.

        Over-dependence on commodities is just too many eggs in one basket, for mine! An older bloke I knew used to say, "If they want our iron ore, then they can buy it...... after we've turned into a refrigerator, washing machine, or a car, or a......"

        Even a manager of a US chemical manufacturer (can't remember who), who is an Australian and was "back home" recently, addressed this exact issue. He said that his company was keen to invest here in manufacturing. Better a US company than nothing, but I really wish that we could change the local mentality.

        I like the German "Mittelstand" concept, local entrepreneurial ownership integrated into local communities, which is said to have attributed to Germany's recent resilience. Check this our... http://www.abc.net.au/foreign/content/2012/s3430858.htm

        That somewhat "old model", has a lot going for it. It may not create the same economical highs, but it can minimize the lows, and the contagion of more global models, whilst maintaining stronger communities. If industry is locally owned, it will more likely be sustained if profitable. I've seen externally owned operations close and wreck communities, even though they were still profitable, because there was something more profitable elsewhere
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          Feb 22 2013: Too soon old, to late smart.
          Mittlestand in my poor German for middle place referring to people. But the secret is the German attitude for hard work and frugality. A Scot friend of mine told me that the Germans taught the Scots how to squeeze a schilling into extra pence... what ever that means.

          The Germans are a hardworking and frugal society unlike many other many other modern nations including mine, where too many of the citizens find that it is easier to elect a strong central government that will provide all the basic necessities.

          One story:
          A local TV station interviewed people lining up at a local food bank to receive free food.
          These recipients were people who were on public welfare programs. What I saw. People loading bags of free food into late model cars...better then mine, I enviously thought.
          One lady being interviewed was well dressed, holding a high quality cell phone, telling the interviewer how her children would have nothing to eat if she didn't have the food bank.
          Is it just me?
          No frugality, no hard work, just open hands with no sense of personal responsibility.
          My fellow country men have even elected a federal governments that fosters this behavior.
          Maybe my lack of concern with "global consequences" is my sense that maybe we deserve it.
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    Feb 21 2013: To Mike Colera (seems I cannot reply above - maybe there is limit to reply depth),

    Firstly, I do suffer from a few things, but not what you think.

    Of course the earth will survive. I am not concerned with that. I am concerned with OUR survival and the progress of our civilization. I have kids and I want them to enjoy a good life and their kids after them. I don't want to see them maybe surviving to live in a hostile, post-civilized world.

    “Disruption and conflict will be endemic features of life … once again, warfare would define human life,” conclusion of Pentagon report in 2004 on the impacts of climate change. (reported in the Observer newspaper, Feb 22, 2004.) Hey, but what would they know, right!?

    Wind and water circulate the globe. Nothing is "local", as you assume above. Anything that is issued at a rate faster than it can be processed or absorbed by the natural systems accumulates and this changes the systems.

    Whether you BELIEVE we are insignificant or not is totally irrelevant. Our impact is OBSERVABLE, being MEASURED and the changes due to those impacts are actually worse than predicted.

    You think we have a few centuries?

    We have a few decades, my friend, and, again, this is based on the knowledge gained by those that actually study and measure. That is REAL HARD FACTS, not hunches, opinions or assumptions.... or poking fingers in ponds.

    "Today humanity uses the equivalent of 1.5 planets to provide the resources we use and absorb our waste. This means it now takes the Earth one year and six months to regenerate what we use in a year." - http://www.footprintnetwork.org/en/index.php/GFN/page/world_footprint/

    By 2050 it'll be around "3 earths" if we don't change. Our children will be the ones to pay for this! Earth survive, but will we?

    Now take the time an check out that site thoroughly and you'll see how they actually get those figures. That's right, once again, it's from people going out, actually doing the WORK and MEASURING stuff!
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      Feb 21 2013: Mark,
      My apologies for my comments that came as patronizing. Let me be succinct about my views.

      I do have progeny and wholly desire their continued well being.
      A low cost energy system is the life blood of human civilization
      There is waste and other negative side effects in generation of this energy.
      There is a finite limit on fossil fuel supplying that system
      Mankind is not engaged in a concerted effort to find a replacement source.

      Fringe groups whose motives are questionable, are engaged in a fear campaign to
      seriously restrict the current flow of energy as soon as possible.
      Major disruption of energy supplies could cause more global disruption then is currently
      attributed to political indifference, national posturing and religious fanaticism.
      Current "replacement" energy sources proposed are insufficient and uneconomical.
      Claims of planarity demise by the use of fossil fuels are ludicrous and insulting to rational thought.

      And yes, should mankind get stupid enough to create a mass species extinction?
      I would predicate a 85% loss based on current population distribution.

      I do apologize that I am not convinced of the REAL HARD FACTS you have presented. Why?
      Because, they are based for the most part on studies in environmental science.
      Environmental Science is a soft science. And that means it is primarily based on conjecture.
      And how do I come to believe that? Anytime I hear the phrase 'based on computer models"...
      Finally, if they can't tell me if it is going to rain for sure this weekend, I lose a lot of confidence in what the weather will be like in 20 years.

      But that is just me.
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        Feb 21 2013: There is no energy shortage. If you see my post above in reply to Ward Williams' post...
        http://www.ted.com/conversations/16350/we_will_not_find_an_alternativ.html?c=607696
        .... you will see why. That link in that post showing solar capacity is only using photovoltaics at an efficiency rate of 10%. Current PV tech is over 20% (47.9% in research). and cost is down under $1 per watt, which, when amortized is cheaper than coal.

        There is far MORE energy available using solar THERMAL, and that enables heat storage (molten salts) to provide 24 hour generation. This has been achieved in Spain.

        It is practical, proven and economical. The problem economically is the transition as I noted above.

        As for "fringe groups", sorry, but the scientific community, across all disciplines, physics, geology, climatologists, biologists, etc, has basically put this to bed. The "fringe group" are those that deny the vast body of cross discipline, science. It's all peer-reviewed, meaning that they've had all the arguments.

        I live in a coal town with two power stations, have done all my life. I know the industries well, in fact I have taught the techs and engineers when I was teaching elect eng, electronics and control for over a decade...

        Wanna know what is really dumb? Going down into holes to dig out fossiized solar power (coal) and then coming out and having to put on a hat and sunscreen to protect yourself from the solar power that gets delivered free every day. I've lost three mates down those holes, and one of them was probably the best bloke I ever knew. That whole scenario is bloody stupid.

        Climate science is not "soft science" and based mainly on physics. You can MEASURE temperature, chemical compositions, sea level, ice melts, etc. Anything based on measurement is empirical science, not soft.

        Computer modelling can be misleading, (garbage in - garbage out). However, the MEASUREMENTS are proving the modelling correct.

        Oh, ..meteorologists do the weather forecasts.
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          Feb 21 2013: Mark,
          We are basically saying the same thing.
          There is more real energy out there then we can possible use.
          We need to do better then fossil fuels, if for no other reason then we are running out.
          Yes, the gathering of fossil fuel is dangerous and deadly work.
          I can't speak to scientific community there, but too many of our scientists are hedging their
          words. Since the " politics" here are such that if you are labeled as a global warming non-believer has the same social implication as being called a "racist". You have to live here to appreciate that slander.
          You say that you have knowledge of power and distribution. Good. Me too, and having been in the business, I am also fully aware of cost. Power cost is a big factor on any balance sheet and most of the alternative methods are just to costly to be usable..
          Also, you have to consider the size of my country. Our line loses would power a medium sized country in Europe.. Now, I want you to consider the economy of your country if we were to fully comply with the demands of the global warming proponents. Studies have been done here and the results of a 10% reduction in power generation and a similar reduction in transportation fuel would do as much damage as a full scale nuclear war.
          Hyperbole is mine...
          I have heard all the arguments about computer modeling.... remember it is a linear calculation and no one has been smart enough to enter the future variables.
          Worse of all, My local meteorologist is a high priest of global warming... every weather pattern that comes through is because of ....
          Seriously, we need to find a new energy source for power and a new energy source for transportation and we need to do it soon and it has to be as inexpensive as it is now...discounting all the usage taxes applied by government. The transition has to be well planned and well executed to cause the minimal disruption to society. Any sudden shift could be met by 7 bil. POed people. That's all I am saying..
  • Feb 20 2013: The solution is easy.

    Just begin to diversify our energy sources. We have started already. Just look at the Wind Farms in northern Europe, Tidal energy in NYC, Solar around the world and super high efficiency cars.

    There is no one thing that will get us off of oil but many small things over time.

    I believe in the future.
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      Feb 21 2013: Absolutely. What we have to watch is how we focus our future energy research. We need a resource that can provide future energy needs as do the fossil fuels of today. Most of the resources we look at today, wind solar, etc., are good supplemental sources but the best minds in the power industry is that these sources are limited to about 20% of the total requirement and although the fuel is free, collection and distribution runs about twice PKH then standard generation. Now there a few that are looking at a new nuclear generation. Some work on fuel cells but they require natural gas. Now, I see two problems to fix in the next two hundred years. We need a source of almost free electrical energy and another source of cheap transportation energy. if we are going to sustain the evolution of civilization. There are a number of interesting lab experiments but no concerted effort to plan and execute a serious new source of energy.
      • Feb 21 2013: Wind and Solar can take us way beyond 20%. Just look at Great Britain's current and 5 year projections.

        I don't believe all the Internet facts as many are posted by the oil and gas "experts".

        If the USA and China followed Ireland and Scandinavia's direction we would be well on our way in my opinion.
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          Feb 21 2013: Brian, I wish I could share your enthusiasm.
          The Danes.who are probably the best in alternative energy sources had addressed the solar and wind issues and determined the 20% based on a national power system. An island resort off the coast of Africa generates over 50% of their power with wind to support the extensive resort hotels that provide the majority of nation's income. The cost of that power is several multiples of what we typically pay here and that cost here could crash our whole economy.

          Yes. read those oil and gas Internet experts. Even if you don't agree, you need to understand where they are coming from... per " the art of war"

          I would not make suggestions for China, but as far as the US is concerned... the Scandinavians are sitting on fossil fuels that proportionately dwarfs our potential and Ireland as a nation had been all over the place as a stable economy.
      • Feb 21 2013: Mike: you are basically right in what you say, except that I think you may have missed the fact that the power source you are hoping for has already been invented, demonstrated, and forgotten. The Thorium LFTR system of nuclear fission, developed as an aircraft engine, has the potential to replace oil, be cheaper than coal, and perform all the actions that any Green activist could want, and then some. For a good analysis of this, and most other alternative energies, see "Thorium: energy cheaper than Coal", by Robert Hargraves. By the way, one of the incidental side effects would be the ability to reduce C02 build up to neutral in about 40 years, assuming an all out effort. Still doable. Maybe we don't have 200 years, but I would think 40-50 is possible.
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          Feb 21 2013: That's a great point
          I am not on the current science of this medium. What I have read, there is still some work to do to get it to be commercially viable. That is " profitable" I am also sure that there are some big energy conglomerates that have an eye on that ball. I know of local energy players that are looking for anything they can get to get them out of the oil business. In their words, oil is getting to hard to do. But, and they are honest about this, there has to be a better profit for them to make the jump.
  • Feb 19 2013: I am confident we will justify ourselves to salvage our pride (thoughts lead to feelings and optimism drives our thoughts thus changes our perspective which further defines judgement)
    I just want the mankind to be mature(contentment lies is sharing/sacrifice for a natural example MOTHER-child relationship) and be less greedy/ambitious/other +ive synonyms(ambition should be finding what evolution is).
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      Feb 20 2013: Ah, my friend, I am walking right alongside you.

      What you are talking about, and what I crave, is wisdom, which is even more rare than common sense, which is about as common as hen's teeth!

      In a world of 7 billion people, the numbers of homo sapiens are far outweighed by those of homo insipiens.
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        Feb 20 2013: Mark,
        I have to say that wisdom has been described as " coming to the realization that you don't know nothing.
        And common sense is what you have when your wise, but that's just one view.

        I love your last line, can I use it?
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          Feb 20 2013: So true, so true!

          Actually the last line is the basis of project I am trying to put together, if I can ever figure out how to condense it into something smaller than Wikipedia.... So, just in case I manage to pull it off, if you use it, give me the cred ;)
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      Feb 20 2013: Mr. Singh,
      I have to admire your visions. There was a time in my life where I envisioned myself in a cloister with hours devoted to reflections. Maybe, making jams and jellies... But, I had a wife and four children.
      I would like to think that every man holds a mature and moral outlook, yet there is the real world.
      I most admire that man who can raise young adults with a strong moral center.
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    Feb 19 2013: The very definition of economics is scarce resources that have alternative uses. As the price of oil has risen other resources become viable. E.G. Tar sand oil becomes viable at this price as does some bio-fuels as does natural gas and hybrid forms of coal as does cars that operate off of electricity and conventional oil.

    The only thing that can stand in the way of a solution is someone dictating what is best, especially "drastic downscaling of economic activity" My money is on Mankind...

    You do see that no matter what the threat, mankind has overcome the problem?
    • Feb 19 2013: Tar sand oil, bio fuels both are alternatives but they are like switching from sugar to aspartame. It's just not as good. Natural gas is a good alternative but how much investment will it take to switch our infrastructure to accomidate natural gas. Conventional oil is expensive now and we are not even prioritizing a switch to any alternatives. My conclusion is that we will be forced to downscale.

      I see mankind as its own biggest threat. Also mankind is the biggest threat to the rest of life on earth.
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        Feb 20 2013: The market will decide what is the best way to go.
        • Feb 20 2013: Yes, but the market can't create miracles like re endowing the earth with the easy oil it used to have. It will take incredible investment to have an economy run on some other source. I am not saying humanity isn't up to figuring out how. The problem is peak oil is now and viable alternative is not on the horizon.
        • Feb 21 2013: Pat : the "market " seems to prefer destructive cycles, and general swindling . Or is "Wall St." not part of the market?
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        Feb 21 2013: What is not commonly recognized is that technology changes peak oil.

        In Napoleon times Aluminum was more valuable than gold and cost $1200.00 a killo but Charles Martin figured out a way to make it inexpensively at the price dropped to 18 cents a pound in 1914.

        How much will energy cost if they master fusion reaction or thorium reactors?

        The main thing is for government to stay the F out of the way...
        • Feb 21 2013: Pat : You're right: the "government" is standing in the way of Thorium reactors. But, the government also invented them. "Private Industry" would never have done it. They aren't even favoring them NOW!
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        Feb 22 2013: Oh that is right and the government invented the internet also...

        You are quite full of conjecture. I will not waste my time talking to you.
  • Feb 19 2013: Every school-aged child with a calculator learns rather quickly, that you cannot add a specific percentage to any amount indefinately. What makes anyone think that economic growth can (or should) continue? This system must change, before the entire planet has been raped (for profit) and left for dead.
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      Feb 19 2013: You can't do that with a calculator? I didn't know that, but then indefinitely would imply greater then the kid's lifetime, so I guess your right.
      I see economy as an indicator of the evolution of civilization. When man was a hunter gather, we had no wealth maybe a spear and a basket. then we went to farming, and we acquired domestic animals and grains and on and on until today where the wealth of mankind is estimated in 18 figures and I Pads.

      "The system must change"? " We're raping the planet....?."
      You give mankind too much credit. Let me put it in prospective.
      Think of an elephant.
      Think of a flea on the elephant's butt.
      You get the picture.
    • Feb 21 2013: Vince: keep calm. It may soothe you to know that a lot of this "growth" you are talking about is totally phoney, like "Derivatives".. It's growth the way a Ponzi scheme is growth.
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    Feb 18 2013: Mr Duck Worth.

    I have heard of the terrible weather that has plagued your country over the last years. Weather has been over active here and all over the world. These storms have caused much human suffering and miseries..

    You are right. There is a lot of weather out there. And if you look at weather patterns, your will see that they seem cyclical at about every twelve years. Some cycles are moderate, some swing widely.

    But you were concern about the global temperature. If we look at history, we see the the global temperature has been all over the place. Ice ages, no ice at all and the temperatures have been 10 C higher then now and 10 C lower.
    So, what do we know about it...GT is a dynamic phenomenon. Why these cycles? Pick a theory, any theory.
    Cosmologists speak of solar and galactic forces that effect our solar system and planets. Oceanographers will tell you that undersea volcanic activities warm the seas and that heats the surface. My favorite are the environmentalist who say that exhaust of vehicles, cattle and old swaps give off CO2 and that traps heat on the plant. That's my favorite, can't stop cows or swamps, let's stop driving....

    Why my skepticism?

    Back in the 70s, Scientists were positive that the earth was cooling. they had all the numbers to prove it. By the year 2000, global cooling would have reduce food crops to such a point that there would be food wars all over the world. Millions would starve. Magazines had articles on how to survive the coming ice age. Which was good because we had many bomb shelters built for WW 3 and they could be re-purposed.

    So.. fool me once, shame on you, fool me twice shame on me...and for God's sake don't tell me that they're right this time, they've been right every time.
    • Feb 18 2013: It's understandable to have doubts about man made climate. What about ocean acidification caused by CO2?

      What if the scientist do have it right or even partially. Is it worth chancing our climate or ocean life? Burning the remaining economically viable fossil fuels will take maybe a century while our planet to rebalance itself so to speak would take millenia.
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        Feb 18 2013: 66 million years ago, the earth was estimated to be much warmer,a higher CO2 in the air and in the ocean, A world of huge plants and animals, then something happened, but that's another story.
        Here's my point. Earth has had a wide variety of "climates". I will give you that humans are fairly astute creatures, but as far as the earth is concerned, we are just a minor skin irritation and the earth is going to do what the earth is going to do and it will do it in it's own time. So, mankind would be well advised to simply roll with the punches, ie. accommodate to the changes. There may be losses of species in a big global shift. Just hope we aren't the species.

        Most of those "scientists" who want to hold to the status quo on the earth's climate are just used car salesmen or maybe wannabe politicians. Most of them are in it for the money. As an example, I
        give you.... Al Gore
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    Feb 17 2013: I have total faith in there being a solution to our energy needs. Of course petroleum is a finite resource, but demand for power (control) by the people supplying the worlds needs is much more powerful than petroleum itself. Energy is an unrelenting requirement, and those who control it will have the power to control us.

    These are not stupid people. They have the money and impetus to continue supplying the energy the world needs. I have no doubt there are practical methods in development that will replace petroleum when it becomes no longer viable. We all have a sense of urgency, but we will not see a change in energy type until petroleum is exhausted. The infrastructure for petroleum is in place at tremendous expense, and will not be abandoned until the last drop is used. Downsizing is not required.

    My optimism is not in the humanity of the people running the show but in the drive they have and tactics they will use to maintain their current level of influence over the rest of us. As for the requirements of density, easy transportation and economical, those are non-issues. It will cost whatever it costs (including the necessary profits to sustain their power and lifestyle) and we will pay. The only stop for this is through open sourced development and sharing by people who's sole motivation is not profit.
    • Feb 19 2013: If it costs too much then there will be less economic activity.
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      Feb 20 2013: I agree wholeheartedly with what you are saying.

      There is no shortage of energy. Check this out (and technology has vastly improved since 2005)...
      http://home.iprimus.com.au/nielsens/solen.html
      .... less than 1% of UNUSED land needed at a PV efficiency of 10%. Considering that the worst PV cells are far better than that, and concentrated solar thermal can deliver power 24 hours a day using heat storage,

      Any talk of an energy shortage is either ignorance or market manipulation by adding the perception of scarcity (preying on ignorance).

      There is also the very real economic problem of the removal of the "value add" sectors of the fuel part of the current "energy market paradigm". This is:
      - The recovery of the fuel resource (mining/drilling, etc).
      - The processing/refining of the fuel resource.
      - The transportation of the fuel resource.
      This is a very large part of the energy economy and the energy economy is a very large part of the global economy.

      Solar energy is delivered basically free of charge. There may be an increase of transmission and distribution, but this would in no way fill the hole left by the removal of what I call the "value add" sectors above.

      Amortized over time, the longer the period, the cheaper renewable energy is. That virtually kills the income generated by the energy sector. This is where I think Amory Lovins falters in his talks. He sees the savings as a gain, which in the long run they would be, but what he fails to address is, "How do we fill that economic hole, at least in the short term?". Amory is an engineer, (he thinks like me,) but others see the money flow as of far greater import than the flow of energy.

      Of course what you say regarding those with the current controlling position do not want to lose that control, nor do they want to lose their current returns their investment yields.

      However, there are those trying to get past this. DESERTEC is one, but it is no easy road.
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        Feb 20 2013: I went to the sight and read it. Very impressive stuff. Thank you for the link, and your comments.
      • Feb 21 2013: Mark: Yes , there is a lot of "free" energy in the sun. But what you are overlooking is, that to "capture" it, is very far from free. In fact, it is basically a fringe activity, because it has no "Energy Density". You are not going to see practical airplanes powered by solar panels. For real power, you need coal or oil. Or better yet, Thorium LFTR power, which is a million times more energy dense than fossil fuels.
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          Feb 24 2013: Yes, and it costs fortune to build a coal fired power station and the coal mines to feed it, supply lines (truck, train or belt if you lucky to the close to the mine), then the waste, transporting ash to ash dams etc..

          Factual figures from a proposed upgrade to Mt Piper Power Station: A$2 Billion budget (2008) to 600MW upgrade to an existing power station. Then it will cost $162,240,000 (current price) extra in coal per year just to fuel that increase. That is only an UPGRADE to existing infrastructure!

          Based on the Andasol parabolic trough thermal system in Spain, a brand new installation would be just under $5 Billion at PROTOTYPE prices including the heat storage for 24 hour operation. A roll-out of 12 units (50MW/unit is what the costings are based on) of thermal solar will reduce costs with economies of scale, as it is duplication, over and over.

          Solar is mostly a one off cost, and if the initial capital is amortized over an appropriate period, it can be priced to compete on the market and will surpass the competition, as maintenance costs are also lower (far less moving mechanics - no belts, hoppers, ball/ roller mills, etc.)

          Just over a century ago, "horseless carriages" were a "fringe activity", Lord Kelvin said that there was nothing new left to invent, powered flight was a pipe dream, etc, then a couple of bicycle mechanics .. well you know the story.

          As Ian Fleming said, Never say never again.

          Check out this TED talk.... http://www.ted.com/talks/bertrand_piccard_s_solar_powered_adventure.html

          "So, you see that this airplane is more a symbol. I don't think it will transport 200 people in the next years. But when Lindbergh crossed the Atlantic, the payload was also just sufficient for one person and some fuel. And 20 years later there were 200 people in every airplane crossing the Atlantic."

          NASA and others are working on getting biofuels from algae, Solar to hydrogen, etc.

          There are infinite possibilities once we free ourselves from paradigms.
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    Feb 17 2013: Even if we get through the current oil crisis there will eventually come a time when our need or drive surpasses our capabilities in the energy department, the space/land department or the pollution department. We will eventually have to slow down.

    that is my opinion at least
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      Feb 17 2013: We don't have to slow down, man is the smartest of all animals. If we don't figure this out, lets just turn this planet over to the cockroaches, crawl into holes and die. To "slow down" is giving up.
      The cup is half full.
      • Feb 18 2013: Seems to me that the 'smartest of all animals' is doing a pretty wretched job of managing life on earth. We may be smart but we are not yet wise. This is a dangerous combination.
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          Feb 18 2013: You give us too much credit, we are not either smart or wise. We will never "manage" life on earth, we are just barely able to survive. But, as a species, we do have an overactive sense of importance and that may be the death of us yet.
      • Feb 18 2013: You said man is 'the smartest of all animals.' I would say mis management is a form of management. Human activity is to blame for the greatest species loss since in millions of years.

        Also we try and manage life by growing the crops we want and killing their pests. Anytime cilivized humans move into a 'virgin" territory we drastically alter the species living there.
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          Feb 18 2013: I was just quoting someone, If we were smart as a species, would we be doing all this stupid crap we are doing? Let me rephrase, we have the intelligence to survive. We just have to get over this attitude that we are some kind of omnipotent deity.
      • Feb 20 2013: I agree with that thought .. 'we just have to get over this attitude that we are some kind of omnipotent deity.'

        I say we are smart because we have ability to make tools/technology. It's how we use this technology that is stupid.
        • Feb 24 2013: Obviously not you all could not make fire unless it was shown to you ( Guess What it was) Did they have degrees if not they should have.
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    Feb 16 2013: 1) You miss a vital point about downscaling our economy - developing nations. Every bit of downscaling we do will be offset by them. Simply to match the average quality of life of the 1st world with that of the 3rd world requires more energy than we currently use worldwide. The argument about sunshine and flowers being better than junk food and video games may be valid, but when hundreds of millions of people do not even have access to water, it is moot.

    2) The best we can hope for by downscaling our economy is to buy a little time, but we don't need to do anything for that, the market will take care of that by raising the price of oil and with it the price of everything else.

    3) The only real solution to provide a good quality of life for all is alternative energy. The best incentive to implementing an alternative energy plan is sustained growth.

    4) There is no real need of major inventions, we have many alternative energy solutions, each with its ups and downs. A comprehensive solution that employs all of them might just work. Plus, the price of new tech goes down all the time!
    • Feb 21 2013: Uri: Alternative energy is fine, as long as it means Thorium LFTRs. The most talked about ones, are simply too expensive to be helpful, without even considering their intrusive infrastructure. And they just don't have "Energy Density". What you need is clean energy cheaper than coal.
  • Feb 15 2013: I think the sad part about energy is not that we don't have the means or money to make it happen. But the people with money are in deep with oil and coal so we may never see anything happen before we destroy the earth beyond repair. Our greed stops us from so much. At this moment our government will not allow Thorium reactors to happen. Too many hands in too many big rich pockets.

    On a more positive note: The theory is that changing our electric grid from coal to thorium liquid salt reactor nuclear energy will take away the pollution of coal and make energy extremely cheap very quickly. Seeing the cheap totally clean energy will prompt batteries to be developed faster. Right now developing batteries is no better for our world than gasoline. The energy is either coming from oil or coal (via electricity).

    There is even an outlook that a thorium reactor could be safe enough to run in transportation needing more power such as large trucks and trains. Another thought is having clean electricity would allow us to make hydrogen generators to power hydrogen fuel cells in our cars.

    Whichever angle I look from having almost 100% green, cheap electricity is a jumping off point to fixing every energy problem we have, including the oil problem of our transportation.

    Here is the good part. Can it happen? I am convinced that answer is YES. Will it happen depends on mankind making a monumental shift in thinking. Will that shift happen? Based on the fact that we still use wars to solve conflict...my sad answer is NO.
    • Feb 15 2013: I briefly researched thorium as an alternative. Looks promising. But I still have reservations about its implementation. My question is what will come first- the thorium reactors in our electric grid or the necessary automobile batteries to have an electric fleet? Current battery technology is not economical or sufficient.
      • Feb 21 2013: Brian: you would probably be interested to know that Thorium LFTRs could solve the automobile problem as well, by synthesizing carbon based liquid fuel ffrom materials already in the atmosphere. I.e., pulling it all out of the atmosphere enables you to burn it as motor fuel without adding to the CO2 load we already have. Carbon neutral ; it would be a big help, and batteries would not be essential.
  • Feb 15 2013: Brian: It is not true that"electricity is not a replacement for oil", as you stated. It depends on whether the electricity is cheap , plentiful , and has no negative effects. It is possible to create artificial motor fuel, etc from the components in the atmosphere. Because of that , it could be "carbon neutral". If you would like more details about that , and other energy alternatives, you could look up "Thorium: Energy Cheaper than Coal". by Prof. Robert Hargraves, of Dartmouth.
    • Feb 18 2013: Cars of the future won't use batteries?
      • Feb 19 2013: Brian: This technology is sometimes hard to describe in few words. The idea here is that with unlimited amounts of electric power, synthetic liquid fuel can be cheaply synthesized from the components of air, and since it is all derived from air, burning it does not add CO2 , etc.in the combustion.(carbon neutral) So , yes, we might possibly have future cars run on "synthesized fuel" , not batteries. If you want more details about this, look up "Thorium: Energy Cheaper than Coal" by Rpbert Hargraves, or Youtube, Kirk Sorensen Thorium LFTR