Monday, June 13, 2011
Responding to a reader who dislikes coal and nuclear power, and wants everyone to stop using them, Cecil Adams summarizes the results of an academic paper about the future of the world's aggregate energy demand versus how that demand might be met. The inadequacy of "alternative" energy sources to meet even a modest average level of demand is striking, especially in the context of the unrealistic assumptions behind their maximum outputs:
[Daniel] Nocera conservatively pegs annual global energy usage circa 2050 at between 28 terawatts -- which assumes average consumption at the same rate as in present-day Poland -- and 35 terawatts, roughly the rate now seen in Samoa. You may say: Samoa sounds like a lifestyle I could get used to. That's sporting of you, but it still means we'll need about 15 to 20 more terawatts of energy than we're consuming right now."Alternative" energy is anything but an alternative, if the goal is to sustain human life.
Where will it come from? Nocera runs through some possibilities:
Total: around 18 to 22 terawatts. In other words, if we squeeze out every available watt of alternative energy on the planet, and build nukes at an impossibly aggressive rate, we'll barely keep up with the energy needed to support even a modest standard of living for the world's people.
- First, biomass. If we devote all the arable land on earth to energy production rather than food crops and presumably just don't eat, we could generate 7 to 10 terawatts.
- Next, wind. If we build wind farms on 100 percent of the sufficiently windy land, we could produce 2.1 terawatts.
- Third, hydroelectric. If we dam all the remaining rivers, we could come up with 0.7 to 2 additional terawatts.
- Finally, nuclear. I know you don't like nukes, Randvek, but the professor's evident aim was to tote up all power sources that aren't net emitters of greenhouse gases. He thinks we could produce 8 terawatts by constructing 8,000 nuclear power plants, which would mean one new plant every two days for the next 40 years.
Frank J. Fleming offers some free "Tips for Not Appearing Crazy on the Internet."
[O]ften crazy people will just read until they see a word or phrase that sets them off and then go off on a big, crazy rant before even reading the whole thing they're reacting to. Often, then, they're completely missing the point or missing that something is satire and taking it seriously.Is this a satirical piece or a diagnostic tool? Based on the above, I'd say it's both. Heh!
From a contest at Cracked: Here's what would an over-the-hill King Kong would look like.
From Armed and Dangerous comes this latest tech press headline from the smart phone wars: "Apple's iOS 5 Directly Lifts Features from Android."
This story about the latest government-funded "bullet" train gives the phrase, "faster than a speeding bullet" an ironic new meaning. It sounds to me like there's a humorous ad for a competing bus line just waiting to happen here.