TED Conversations

Jah Kable

Thinker ready to be unleashed upon the world,

This conversation is closed.

Why are the alternate power sources not being implemented on a world-wide scale? There is a tipping point and we must be close by now!!!

Solar panels
Wind Turbines

We all see the signs of the world changing. Ice caps disappearing, mega storms, tempature rise, ect.
Yet we are more concerned with royal babies, wars, and profits.
We will have none of that if this planet stops supporting life as we know it.
This is a back burner issue always used for politics but never solved by politics.
Turn the heat up on this, the Earth is!


Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.

  • Aug 15 2013: The "tipping point" is very easy to understand: When it becomes cost-effective, it will be done. No amount of silly moralistic posturing will change this fundamental fact. No amount of ethnocentric Western "environmentalism" will force Russia or China to change their practices. They don't care, and they are so powerful that they can't be compelled to care. The bottom line is the bottom line. This is why the future of this stuff is not in legislation, regulation, or similarly stupid approaches. The future of this stuff is in improvement of the basic methods to the point at which they become more cost-effective in comparison to currently-used methods. Why does nobody burn whale oil, anymore? It has nothing to do with touchy-feely environmentalism. It has everything to do with petroleum becoming more cost-effective than whale oil. Turbines are used a lot in Texas--they are profitable. Hydroelectric is used where it is profitable. Solar power is still too boutique to be worth using on a large scale.
    • thumb
      Aug 18 2013: There are some things we can do as environmentalists.


      When you install solar panels,your extra energy gets sold to the grid. If enough people do this, then the country could run on solar during the day and only run on fossils or whatever stock at night. A message loud and clear to the power company.

      We can also install fuel cells.

      each power company also has to list sources of power for it's customers. A petition for wind can help with that.

      Electric cars are available now, and tesla's newest least expensive model is on the drawing boards as we speak.

      Things don't have to change at the national level if you know your town's budget and when the meetings are.
      • Aug 18 2013: This is not acceptable. Real grass-roots individual activity is evil. Only gigantic, intrusive, totalitarian government acts are acceptable. Don't you know that? Only tyranny is virtuous. Personal acts of virtue are evil.
      • Aug 21 2013: I fail to see the benefit of electric cars.
        Aside from being overweight and underpowered due to limitations in battery technology, if someone at the power station burned fossil fuels for you, what did the environment earn?
        All you're doing is distancing yourself from the guilt, you're not actually solving anything.

        While I agree that solar has some use in user end power generation, both solar and wind are completely ill suited for mass scale power generation. 20 times the cost per unit of energy than fossil fuels is a best case scenario.

        You'd be better off spending all that money on things like healthcare, education and infrastructure--saving money isn't about greed, its about resource allocation.
        • thumb
          Aug 21 2013: Electric cars are an investment in the flexibility of cars, and diversifying the cash flow, and a step in the right direction.

          Power stations are more efficient at burning fossil fuels than my car is. My power company is using 10% renewables right now. When renewables are finally available to power 100% of my electricity, i don't want the fossil car industry holding me hostage. getting 10% of my fuel dollar into the hands that are buying my neighbor's solar excess. And when I get a electric car, I'll be my neighbor's first private customer, If I haven't installed my own solar panels by then.

          I'm also quite happy to concentrate the exhaust away from my son's nose and into a smokestack that is monitored by ever increasing legislation and a whole team of scientists working to comply.

          I've already got healthcare and working in the healthcare industry. Ready to switch my investments to the hyperloop the second it's available, and Allocating resources away from fossils is well worth it to me.

          please quote your source for the 20 figure.
      • Aug 21 2013: http://www.oecd-nea.org/ndd/reports/2012/system-effects-exec-sum.pdf

        This is for the times 20 figure, though you'll notice that I'm not exaggerating when I'm saying its an absolute best case scenario.

        As for the electric cars, remember that while the power plant is operating at about 40% efficiency with burning fossil fuels, and a gasoline car is only around 30% (less for older models, a bit more for new), you loose quite a fair bit of that efficiency in getting the electricity from the power plant over to the charger at your house. It depends on distance, but it can easily reach half, which actually gives your car about a 10% edge, despite some of the power station's output being green.
        If we ever get around to developing super conducting power lines, then we'll talk, but for the moment, that's just not the case.
        Add to that the electric car being less than 100% efficient in of itself...

        As for concentrating the exhaust away from population centers, that I can't dispute.
        It doesn't help that electric cars, due to current limitations of battery technology are overweight and underpowered. There's a reason most of the major auto manufacturers decided to skip this technology rather than trying to build their own electric cars.

        Concerning priorities, every man has his own I suppose.
        I'd much rather seeing my nation's resources spent less on "green" energy, and more on things like defense (I live in the middle east, its more of a priority than in the western world), education, infrastructure, healthcare, or a whole host of other priorities, that may actually prove a benefit.
        I don't really buy into the whole global warming theory--investing more money in those other things however, I know will get results.
        • thumb
          Aug 21 2013: You only lose about 10 to 15% electricity in the grid. and the 10% renewable is improving everyday. So is electric car technology. I do buy into the global warming theory, but not stuck on just that. Fossils are not negative only because of the co2, or because they may be finite, but because of the other ways in which they affect the environment from water pollution to loss of habitat.

          Another way is the concentration of wealth in the hands of the few, the conflicts they cause, and the maintenance of the status quo. I think the world is due for a shake up.
      • Aug 21 2013: Actually, I heard the 50% figure from an engineer I talked to while visiting a power station...
        My country isn't particularly large (too small for its name to fit on a map, actually), so I can only imagine its worse elsewhere.

        Fossil fuels are finite, true, which is why we should be looking to replace them in the long term. The oil is the only one threatening to run out anytime soon (well, have its price spike up dramatically and being unable to keep up with demand anyway, it'll take a while longer for it to completely run out).
        Seeing as oil isn't used for electric production, renewable energy won't help solve that.

        Coal and natural gas reserves ought to last quite a long time yet, more than a human life span in fact. We should be looking at replacing them as long term R&D, not as an immediate concern.

        As for wealth disparity, you honestly think quitting fossil fuels will solve that?
        Wealth disparity is a symptom of capitalism, not the energy industry. Even if you make the switch, instead of oil tycoons, you'll get wind farm tycoons.
        In fact, the lack of cheap energy will only make it harder for the developing world to catch up to the developed one, which will have pretty much the opposite effect of alleviating wealth disparity...
        • thumb
          Aug 22 2013: Nadav,

          What does the size of your country have to do with efficiency? The engineer may have been referring to thermal efficiency in plant, not transmission.

          AT THE SOURCE: the average automobile engine is only about 35% efficient, and must also be kept idling at stoplights, wasting an additional 17% of the energy, resulting in an overall efficiency of 18%. Large stationary electric generating plants have fewer of these competing requirements as well as more efficient Rankine cycles, so they are significantly more efficient than vehicle engines, around 50%

          IN THE GRID: You only lose about 10 to 15% electricity. (According to EIA data, national, annual electricity transmission and distribution losses average about 7% of the electricity that is transmitted in the United States.) Compare that to having to go to a gas station to get gas. Then compare the cost of getting gas to the gas stations (multiple) to getting the coal, natural gas, etc to the centralized power stations.

          I don't mean transfer power from one small group to another. I have no illusions that oil will suddenly stop being sold. The oil rich will continue having a market. What I'd like to see is some of that money being diverted into other hands.

          Oil is used used in electricity production. One of the products of crude oil is deisel which is used for power generation when natural gas supply is insufficient or interrupted. Another product of crude oil is Petroleum Fuel Oil used by power plants. Petroleum reserves do give oil AND natural gas. Natural gas is found in proximity to crude oil. The same companies and similar processes are used to refine crude oil and natural gas.

        • thumb
          Aug 22 2013: I don't know how to fix the capitalistic world. But I do think it would function better if the wealth was diversified a bit more.

          If more people switched to electric cars, then the oil guys don't have a monopoly do they?

          If power generation involved more than just coal, petroleum and natural gas, then there wouldn't be so much money concentrated there.

          With electricity, If more people got solar panels at home, then the power companies lose some of their power don't they?

          All the while, R&D is diversified and innovation becomes multidirectional.
      • Aug 22 2013: My understanding was that in the transition of power from the station to people's homes, around 50% went to heating up the electric lines on the way (my assumption is that in a larger country with a more dispersed populace, distance between plant and populace would increase, and overall resistance of electric wires increase). Internal efficiency of the plant itself is the unrelated 40% I was talking about, which if your figure of 35% for a car's engine is accurate, means that electric cars earn even less.
        You'd think an electric car would be lighter than a gasoline one due to lack of plumbing, but battery technology as of today is so bad compared to oil in terms of energy density, that its actually heavier. The calculation isn't all about efficiency, accelerating a heavier car leads to spending more energy overall.
        Essentially, unless your power plant is renewable, I still don't think you're earning much, at least not until electric cars improve drastically (which probably means switching over from batteries to capacitors still in development).

        As for oil in power generation, that's less crucial, as it isn't inherent to the industry. Running out of oil would hurt power generation somewhat, but it won't be crippling. Where we'd really feel the lack of oil, is its use as a motor fuel--this should be where the concerns are for replacing oil as an energy source, and renewables won't solve that.

        As for spreading the wealth, again, it might help to some extent, but I don't think the change will be truly significant. Again, the problems renewable energy causes for developing countries will if anything, have the opposite effect.
        • thumb
          Aug 22 2013: http://www.teslamotors.com/models/specs

          The curb weight of a Tesla model S is about 2 metric tons, which is the average weight of US vehicles today. It will improve even more considering this is just the first model. How long has the fossil car had to bring it's weight down?

          35% for fossil car efficiency, 50% for power plant and 7% for transmission = 43% for electric.

          do you know where natural gas is stored? in huge salt caverns. like this:

          I live in a developing country. I'd consider sewage and livestock farm runoff renewable lol!
          Right now, the sewage is chanelled into the ocean, or rivers, or you know... ignored. Total waste. So, rather than separately spending to clean that up, and then getting coal for the power plant, I say clean it up and use it. can be done with tyres and landfills and most household waste too. I wouldn't call that a developing country taking a hit on economy just for renewable...
      • Aug 22 2013: I'm all for "renewable" gas production, all though that's really more of making use of existing waste products, and is completely dissimilar from all the other renewable energy technologies. I wouldn't lump it together in the same category with solar and wind. Its wholly practical, for one.

        As for the storage thing, that sounds more like a regulation problem than a fundamental one. If big business didn't have the massive influence it does in the US government, it could have probably been fixed by now...
        • thumb
          Aug 23 2013: The storage is what would drive the price way up, if it was done properly.

Showing single comment thread. View the full conversation.