Random ramblings of a mind damaged by years of disuse and abuse. Also a place to go to be bored to tears.
The Random Comic Strip
Words to live by...
"How beautiful it is to do nothing, and to rest afterward."
(The right to looseness has been officially given)
"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders," wrote Ludwig von Mises, "no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interest, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle."
Apparently, the crossword puzzle that disappeared from the blog, came back.
Friday, March 16, 2012
Running on empty
Let me tell you why alternative energy sources are doomed to failure for the foreseeable future.
We need to first examine the history of energy. Once humans created communities, it became clear that energy consumption would be a problem. Humans needed heat; fire for cooking and for warmth in cold weather. As agriculture developed, water supplies and mills (for grinding grain) needed to be addressed. The flow of water provided the energy for the mills, saving on human labor and the use of animals. These were followed by windmills which used the power of air flow to power the mills. The water, of course, also was needed for the crops and for the animals. It makes sense, then, why the first communities were built along rivers. Communities were also built near the seas or other large bodies of water... not for energy needs but for food supply.
What humans learned early on was that nature wasn't reliable. Droughts were unpredictable as were their opposite (deluges and floods). The wind might blow... or not. Streams might dry up from excessive droughts, even rivers might be reduced to small streams.
Fire not only provided heat but also light. Not great light but adequate for the primitive needs of man at the time. But trees were the only source of wood and trees grow slowly and are subject to problems caused by disruptions caused by weather changes. And supplies can easily be depleted. Look at Haiti, consider the problems of deforestation.
I believe there was a constant search for reliable energy throughout human history. Oil from various sources was used for lamps and torches. Eventually, petroleum was discovered in abundance and it displaced the biological sources of oil: animal fats and plant oils. It also gave birth to the production of electricity which led to the incandescent bulb for light, the internal combustion engine to power machines (run those mills), and so on. It was the "Holy Grail" of power. The Industrial Revolution would not have continued just on coal alone. More than coal was needed, something that was relatively easier to get at and to convert to energy. Oil was that resource.
So now we have become heavily dependent on oil. And we also now blame climate change on the byproducts of its (and coal's) use. And so we want alternative fuels, alternative energy, "renewables", as they are called. We want "clean" energy, "green" energy.
Consider that these renewables and alternative energy sources are subject to the whims of nature. To the very things that prompted the search for a dependable source of energy in the first place.
What if the wind patterns change because of climate change? What happens to those wind farms? What if climate change produces droughts where we grow the soy, and the switchgrass, and the corn that we want to use for biofuels? What happens when rivers dry up? What if we have to choose between food and energy?
Do we want to return to dependence on Mother Nature? Would we face energy rationing? Could we sustain a reasonable level of human comfort, provide for our energy needs in the face of the unreliability of nature? Or would it result in massive human suffering?
We do need to develop other ways to power our machines that make our lives pretty easy, there's no way around the fact that oil will eventually run out. But we'd best be careful and not assume that alternative fuels will replace oil and coal. The alternative energy sources will likely be, as they have always been, unreliable.
Don't get me wrong, hybrids and electric powered cars are going to be needed for the near future but generating electricity to charge the electric cars? That's going to be mostly fossil fuel at work. Until we find something better, something as efficient and reliable.