Posted by: crudbasher | May 19, 2011

It’s All About Energy

Energy Usage vs Standard of Living

If look at a graph of energy usage vs standard of living there is a clear relationship. The question is, which one drives the other? I think providing more energy raises the standard of living. Therefore energy is a very important policy question for countries as they move further in the 21st century.

Energy is behind everything is a modern society. As energy prices go up, so does the cost of everything else. So I would think the goal of society is to increase the energy supply coupled with keeping it inexpensive. So what are the options to accomplish this?

Oil – Contrary to popular belief I don’t think oil is going away any time soon. Eventually technology will come up with a better option but that hasn’t happened yet. Also contrary to popular belief there is a ton of oil still out there, but for a lot of political reasons we can’t access it.

Nuclear – The mess in Japan has caused a lot of people to become afraid of nuclear power but that really is irrational. The worst nuclear disaster on record is Chernobyl. How many people died in that? Well, none immediately. According to wikipedia, 64 had died as of 2008. Compare that to the thousands that die each year from coal mining alone. New generation reactors are radically different and much much safer. They are small in land use and provide reliable power. Most of France runs on nukes and have for decades. Eventually we will move from fission reactors to fusion which don’t have any radioactive fuel, therefore no meltdowns.

Coal – Kind of messy but it’s low tech and plentiful. Not going away soon either.

Natural Gas – We have a ton of this in the US and it burns fairly cleanly. We could use it as a gateway away from oil but it’s not politically popular.

Alternative sources

Wind – I don’t think wind power is the answer to energy needs. They take up a lot of room, they are maintenance intensive, and most importantly they don’t work when the wind doesn’t blow. 🙂 You don’t want thing with moving parts ideally.

Solar – I think this combine with Fusion is the future. There is thousands of times more energy hitting the surface of the Earth than we could ever use. Solar cells can be flexible and most importantly they can generate energy at the point of use. That makes them better than everything else. Naturally they won’t work at night but battery and fuel cell technology might solve that problem. There is a huge need for better storage technology in the cell phone market so I think that will advance quickly.

What we are waiting on is for solar efficiency to improve. It seems some scientists have come up with a breakthrough. The story is linked below.

Posted from Diigo. The rest of my favorite links are here.

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