Is Mankind ready for "cheap and clean" energy?
Posted: Tue Aug 31, 2010 2:56 am
Posted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 4:16 am
Do I think fusion power would bring an end to war and international conflict? No.
Do I think it could potentially make the lives of billions of people better, especially the poorest? Maybe
However, I also realize it's not a given. Very likely the rich will keep getting richer. . . but just maybe the poor will, while still being poor, be able to have slightly better living conditions. . . clean water, basic electric light fixtures that are powered by dependable power.
Unfortunately, even now, most of the suffering in the world isn't really caused because of lack of resources (though that's a problem) - much of the suffering is inflicted by people on each other. I think there's a lot of third world nations with corrupt, abusive, and completely ineffective governments which will *still* have corrupt, abusive, and completely ineffective governments even if fusion power becomes viable.
But, let me pose a counter-questioin: Do you think the world is *better off* without clean, cheap fusion power? With things continuing as they are - coal and oil providing most of the energy? Do think it's better that we burn coal and gas and oil to generate electricity to run the Air Conditioners which we are using *anyhow*? To refine metals, manufacture things, create fertilizer and other useful chemicals?
Also, there is a fundamental question I'm a bit puzzled about with regards to your question: You seem to assume that the use of more energy would be a bad thing. Now, one can argue that using energy from geological hydrocarbons is a bad thing because it hurts the environment in multiple ways (starting with the drilling/fracturing/mining or other extraction process, pollution, greenhouse gases, etc), and because there is conflict over access to commercially useful (e.g. large) deposits.
But, I ask you - if we have clean, safe, cheap fusion power - where any and every nation has access to abundant, cheap fuel supplies, where is the harm in using that energy? You haven't explained exactly how using more air conditioning powered by fusion, as one of your examples, or driving more miles on an electric vehicle, is itself a bad thing?
I suppose, maybe outside of the energy itself, that manufacturing air conditioners, cars, batteries, etc can involve hazardous chemicals (e.g. air conditioners leaking harmful coolant compounds - although, I believe that in much of the world, air conditioners have switched to using coolants which are not harmful to the environment?).
I guess what I'm saying is that (and this might just be a failure of my own imagination), I dont' see the *downside* to fusion power? I mean, I dunno, maybe some crazy warlord will use the abundant cheap power to electrocute millions of people. But what can you do? Crazy warlords will find one way or another to kill millions of people, if they have the chance - the solution to that problem isn't just keeping the whole world from having access to fusion power; I'm not sure what the solution is (other than, maybe something like the U.N. intervening, but history shows that most nations are hesitant to intervene in even the worst situations, for various reasons).
I don't think fusion power will exactly be a panacea - my glasses aren't rose colored; but, it does seem like it could really change a lot of the current 'status quo'. In many cases that will be beneficial, but in others, it may make things worse. Perhaps some 'oil-curse' nation that's currently in bad shape (say, Nigeria for example), might plunge into complete economic freefall once the oil revenues that prop the country up fall out from under them. Mideast nations that seem to hate us so much because we buy their oil might decide that they hate us 1000 time more without Billions in in oil revenue pouring into the country every year.
But, I still think, *long-run*, we need some source of cheap, safe, abundant, and environmentally friendly energy, or things will just get worse and worse if the 'status quo' is maintained.
Posted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 4:50 am
Arthur C Clarke wrote a few sequels to 2001. One of them speculated on vacuum, or zero point, energy becoming available. The theory was that global warming became rampant not because of CO2, but because thousands of gigawatts of electricity in various uses led to gigawatts of heat waste being put into the atmosphere, and thus warming things up.
I'm not sure we can cook ourselves, but it is a concern, I suppose. It's about the only thing I can think of that doesn't sound Malthusian.
Posted: Wed Sep 01, 2010 11:12 am
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