Friday, January 28, 2011

Politics, Science and Energy

I haven't post here in a long while because there has not been much happening to post about. Yes, there have been a lot of rich guys like Boone Pickins and the Virgin Air guy spouting off, but their plans had little likelihood of happening anytime soon. The recent State of the Union Address by president Obama has changed that. With a more dedicated Governmental effort, energy policy will change. Before I start digging into the current State of the Energy, I want to focus on the State of Politics and Science.

As some of you may know, I feel that Global Warming/Climate Change/Climate Distribution, is a good thing. Not that a warming planet is necessarily a good thing, but that concerns over Anthropogenic Climate Change should drive energy innovation. That drive to change needs to be responsible and intelligent. Threats of catastrophe, draconian taxation and a new world order are no more responsible and intelligent than denial of the situation. That puts me close to the middle of the road where I catch crap from all sides. To restate my position:

1. Dependence on fossil fuels, especially fossil fuels from ecologically and politically sensitive areas is stupid.

2. A reasonably stable world economy during energy transition is of paramount importance.

Points 1 and 2 are not arguable, at least by reasonably intelligent people. Given these two points, options to achieve them have to be diverse. As the president stated various forms of alternate energies will be required. Not so clearly stated is that during the near term, is the weaning off of point 1 has to be reasonable to avoid screwing up point 2.

Nuclear power has to be a major component in energy transition. Proven nuclear technology initially, and incorporation of newer technologies as they prove themselves. There is no one, single energy source that is perfect in this time in history, so we have to accept reasonable risk.

Clean coal is an interim energy component that is also less than perfect. Perhaps some will have to look at it as a necessary evil to sleep at night, but it a part of the equation.

Hydroelectric is also less than perfect, though important in many areas of the developing world. Pakistan, Brazil and India are countries prone to devastating floods that could benefit from the energy and flood control. Yes, there are less than desirable localize environmental impacts.

Green energies have great potential but at this time in our history are not efficient enough nor cost effective enough to provide more than 20% of our energy needs and that is a stretch. These green energies are solar, wind, tidal and geothermal.

Biomass is a different situation entirely. In the near term it is limited, but depending on political decisions, biomass could provide in excess of 50% of our energy needs.

Energy storage and efficient conversion is a major area that will impact all decisions on our energy future.

Climate Change is a political and scientific component of the decision making process that needs to be well understood to avoid losing control of point 2.

This is a basic outline of the topics I will be discussing and I hope to get some feedback from some experts of these topics. The last topic, climate change, is the most topic politically and chronologically. So that will be my first topic of discussion.


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