Fusion Generators, or peak oil and another Great Depression?

If polywell fusion is developed, in what ways will the world change for better or worse? Discuss.

Moderators: tonybarry, MSimon

Are we entering an age of energy scarcity?

Yep, time to go medieval again.
2
11%
Nope. Fusion/fission here we come.
17
89%
 
Total votes: 19

joedead
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Fusion Generators, or peak oil and another Great Depression?

Postby joedead » Tue Nov 11, 2008 12:46 am

Felt like writing this after talking to many of my intelligent friends who think that the world is coming to an end, so to speak.

I always end up being the odd man out. I suggest polywell fusion, or even more fission power, and get labeled as a quack or anti-environmental nut.

How do other people on this forum feel?

Take a gander at these following links:

http://www.energybulletin.net/

http://www.kunstler.com/

http://www.dieoff.org/page1.htm

Aside from the energy bulletin, there seems to be a ton of doom and gloom about the future of the united states; all based on peak oil and future energy shortages. Fusion, of course, has the potential to alter the way energy is produced and influence the course of history.


Well? 50 years from now will I be working on a depression era farm and only have one small lightbulb burning in my shack?

Or will I still be living in Manhattan riding the fusion powered subway to visit the local polywell plant?


:?:

pstudier
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Postby pstudier » Tue Nov 11, 2008 2:54 am

The villagers will shut down all carbon based fuels, and not allow nuclear either. Kind of hard to run a civilized society on renewables. So I am pessimistic.
Fusion is easy, but break even is horrendous.

Betruger
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Postby Betruger » Tue Nov 11, 2008 5:56 am

Can you really make reliable predictions beyond 10 years or so?

Damon Hill
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Postby Damon Hill » Tue Nov 11, 2008 6:33 am

The villagers are accustomed to their creature comforts and will do whatever it takes to keep them. Those who want to go back to the farm and pull plows can do so.

I don't expect it will be easy.

I >do< hope fusion works out, especially aneutronic fusion, but barring a big breakthrough a la polywell or _something_ the future looks intensively fission to me along with whatever wind/tidal/solar as can be managed.

scareduck
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Postby scareduck » Tue Nov 11, 2008 7:09 am

It's possible that none of the above will prove true.

Mike Holmes
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Postby Mike Holmes » Tue Nov 11, 2008 3:50 pm

As for the pessimists, they aren't reading their history correctly. The "Dark Ages" following Rome didn't really alter the quality of life for the vast majority of people who were dirt farmers before and after the fall of Rome. Technologies were largely not "lost" just not employed as much because of lack of organized societies providing an economy in which they could be used.

In fact Rome is a problematic example, since the benefits of their technology using their imperial mode only extended to a tiny fraction of the overall populace. As compared to the fact that almost all Americans drive cars today.

The point is that the worst-case scenario, comparing to Rome is that there would be some sort of societal collapse. But the problem with that is that there's no real threat of barbarians at the gate. Rome is still safe. We haven't hired a mercenary army to protect us from our enemies.

So, barring that societal collapse, you don't get a "dark age." Sure, things may change. We may all have to learn to use mass-transit or something. Wouldn't that be a shame to have to live like New Yorkers...

Or, heaven forfend, we might have to get housing close to where we work so we can walk. We'd be forced to lose weight. What a shame that would be.

But I don't think that would even happen. Economics being what they are these days, when there's a need, somebody steps in to fill that need. No, it might not be a replacement for fossil fuel. Maybe we'll all just telecommute (I sure as hell wish I could do that now). And maybe production will become more local, and we'll have to create more jobs to make evrything we need.

Yeah, sounds just godawful.

Pessimists like to say that they're "realists" because in their view they're not ignoring potential problems. But the fact is that they're ignoring potential soluitions, too. And that's not realistic either.

Mike

joedead
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Location: Manhattan, NY

Postby joedead » Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:52 pm

As for the pessimists, they aren't reading their history correctly. The "Dark Ages" following Rome didn't really alter the quality of life for the vast majority of people who were dirt farmers before and after the fall of Rome. Technologies were largely not "lost" just not employed as much because of lack of organized societies providing an economy in which they could be used.



I was trying to be figurative, not literal, about returning to the dark ages. Many doomers, like Jim Kunstler, believe that we won't be driving cars at all in 50 years and big business will have collapsed, leaving most communities to fend for themselves in an agricultural way. This seems a little extreme to me, but I wouldn't be beyond considering another "great depression" of sorts.

JoeStrout
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Postby JoeStrout » Tue Nov 11, 2008 4:53 pm

pstudier wrote:The villagers will shut down all carbon based fuels, and not allow nuclear either. Kind of hard to run a civilized society on renewables.


Hard at our current level of development, but not impossible. If we were sufficiently motivated, I think we could make space solar power work. That's clean, steady energy 24/7 from the fusion reactor in the sky.

But the capital costs are immense. On the other hand, a need to deploy powersats on a large scale would lead to substantially increased competition and economies of scale in the launcher industry, so costs would probably come down. Large-scale lunar industry could reduce costs even further (as the bulk of the mass of these things can come from the Moon rather than having to haul it up from Earth). So, once we got over the initial "hump" I think it could be quite sustainable.

But I'm still hoping that polywell fusion works out, of course. With that, we bust open the solar system for development (and our options for energy production) that much faster.

Best,
- Joe
Joe Strout
Talk-Polywell.org site administrator

tombo
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Postby tombo » Tue Nov 11, 2008 11:30 pm

I vote for "Muddle Through" (A nice British term) as usual.

I grew up with doom and gloom then eventually as it never came to pass I got tired of it moved on.
It helped when my doctor prescribed "no more tv news, radio news or newspaper." (True)
It also gave me much more time for reading and for my kids and I haven't missed anything important yet.
If you have ever been interviewed and then seen the results in print, you will have vastly less confidence in the non-stop spewing from the news media.
They will say almost anything to fire up your amygdala (automatic fight or flight response.)
-Tom Boydston-
"If we knew what we were doing, it wouldn’t be called research, would it?" ~Albert Einstein

Mike Holmes
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Postby Mike Holmes » Wed Nov 12, 2008 3:25 pm

If the "Dark Age" means to be rid of cars, then, by all means, bring on the dark age. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy my car as much as any red-blooded American. I just realize that cars are an addiction, and one with vastly negative ramifications. The costs and danger are simply unsupportable. The fact that I'm forced to commute ten or so miles to work in the morning, and ten miles back (not a long commute by today's standards, I realize), when I could do the same work from my computer at home, makes me furious. It's purely habit at this point and time that we require this. Yes, remotely dealing with employees has it's own challenges. Since when aren't we up to dealing with a little challenge? You know what's really challenging? Paying disabled employees who end up in car accidents. Or replacing dead employees.

I'd gladly take a $2000 pay cut to work from home. I'd save that in gas, and maintenence on the car, to say nothing of the time saved. And to say even less about increasing my potential longevity.

The real problems with higher transportation costs is higher costs of goods produced far away. That could cause a more general economic alteration that many would see as a collapse. And, frankly, I'd be loathe to give up the benefits of a global economy (we've largely co-opted China, for goodness sake!). But I think that what would more likely occur is that some technology will replace the one that we use now. Perhaps fission, if nothing new comes up. Move stuff by electric rail. Not exactly a new idea.

Yes, there will be economic impact of changing over to the new technology. We're apparenly not forsighted enough to start now, so that it's in the pipeline when we run out of oil. And that's in part because we're waiting and hoping for some technology to be developed that's competitive cost-wise with fossil fuels. Something like, oh, I dunno, fusion power.

Might make sense to hedge our bets in the short run. So that we can spread the cost out over time. Otherwise the costs will bring more pain if they have to be crash implemented. Will it look like the Great Depression? I rather think that it'll be in the form of having smaller wardrobes, due to clothes not being disposably cheap as they are, due to them coming mostly from Taiwan and the like.

Frankly my closet is too small already. And maybe I can put somebody to work here doing textiles, since it will make more economic sense. Somebody who has lost their job in international shipping, perhaps.

Change is pain. But interestingly we've decided to live in a world where change is the norm, because of the benefits. No pain, no gain. So I think we, in history, are uniquely situated to make the best of what changes are to come.

Mike

P.S. Here's an important table of information: http://www.bts.gov/publications/nationa ... 02_17.html

I'm tempted to coin a phrase (if somebody hasn't done so already) of "The Vehicular Holocaust."

Betruger
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Postby Betruger » Wed Nov 12, 2008 6:40 pm

Increasingly high bandwidth will certainly allow for widespread telepresence.. In fact (and forgive the off topic reference) some govt representatives could definitely use it.

MSimon
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Postby MSimon » Thu Nov 13, 2008 8:01 am

Re: Depression,

The incoming admin has a perfect recipe (already tried by Hoover/Roosevelt) for turning a Very Serious Recession into a Great Depression.

1. raising taxes on businesses and high earners
2. pumping money like crazy
3. massive government works
4. protectionism

Note: the outgoing guys are only marginally better.

We are so screwed.

Peak oil is not going to be a concern for a very long time.

I want the next President to have a degree in economics. Any one know the last President with a degree in economics? (trick question)

==

The new guy has two choices - disappoint massively those who elected him or make things much worse.

BTW Roosevelt was thought to have said re: his economic policies "Why isn't anything I'm trying working?" He was saved by a World War. I really hope that is not what the new guy has in mind.

But you know what the first rule of politics is. Get elected and then screw the people that elected you. So maybe there is hope.

==

In any case if things get as bad as I expect cheap energy is not going to be a problem for a while.

==

Oil futures today closed at around $55 and were as low as $52 or so in trading. It has not hit bottom.

==

The sad thing for me (well maybe not) is that I am living on Social Security so as prices go down I will be living better.

And I rent. No mortgage.

==

A taste of things to come:

My bookkeeper just came by to pick up some bills and told me a shocking story. Earlier today she was with another of her clients, a guy who owns a car wash. The man has a cash crisis and was trying to collect $7,000 from Chevy/GM car dealer that used his services to wash new cars before sending them out of the showroom. Someone from the Washington Sewer and Sanitary Service (WSSC) showed up to turn off his water because he had not paid his water bill.

Hopefully you appreciate that if you do not have running water you cannot wash cars. The desperate businessman pleaded for an additional day and headed for the Chevy dealer. Lo and behold, who does he meet, but the WSSC guy who is going to turn off the water at the dealership as well.

At least we are going to be conserving water. That’s the silver lining, right?

http://www.noquarterusa.net/blog/2008/1 ... ine-shaft/
Engineering is the art of making what you want from what you can get at a profit.

joedead
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Location: Manhattan, NY

Postby joedead » Fri Jan 23, 2009 12:32 am

Dystopians are having a field day.

Jim Kunstler on technology and the failure to "re-localize."

The techies for the most part are not so interested in this. Just look at the assholes in NASA who are still fantasizing about space travel when we need to teach tens of millions of Americans how to garden!



http://broadcast.oreilly.com/2009/01/in ... rd-ku.html

This just pisses me off....

:x

Anyone else want to rant?

Skipjack
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Postby Skipjack » Fri Jan 23, 2009 1:20 am

The romans were actually proles compared to the greek, who had a more advanced civilization, actually. The romans just were a bigger military power that conquered and assimilated ancient greece.
The middle ages were not as bad as the 15th century when the inquisition and the catholic church restricted pretty much any free thinking.
That said, the worse the economy the less people will care about the environment or social ideas. These things only work when people have lots of money to spare for this. "Green" products, or cars, or whatever, are luxury items to most people. Only if green was to be more economic than what we have now, it will find wide acceptance. Right now it is not.
Nuclear power is to expensive to be competitive at the moment unfortunately. It might be more economical than some other green alternatives though. I hope that nuclear fusion of some sorts (polywell or other) will change that in the mid term at least.

joedead
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Postby joedead » Fri Jan 23, 2009 3:12 am

Do you think the economic crash and subsequent search for some way to stimulate the economy could fast track polywell? I remember seeing someone post that it would take at least 10 years to get em on the grid, if functional.


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