07 July 2007

The Ampere Strikes Back

The world is not about to start using less energy. Just our energy use for entertainment, communications, and other electronics will soon amount to over a third of the average household's energy use. That is only going to increase--particularly with India, China, and other populous nations beginning to ride the affluence train of internationalist trade. After all, they want their energy slaves too.
When someone discusses the amount of energy used to produce, harvest, transport and distribute a head of broccoli to a store three thousand miles away, the energy used can be expressed in terms of the number of energy slaves required to do that work.

If we replaced a car engine by human slaves cycling, the most modest subcompact car (a Twingo), with 42 kW of engine power (that is about 60 HP), would consume as much as 90 people cycling like hell, and, in terms of mechanical power, given the very poor efficiency of the human machine (10% at best when a thermal engine reaches close to 50%), it's rather 500 people cycling that it represents ! Another parallel might be used : knowing that a HorsePower used for an engine really represents the equivalent of a horse in terms of power, it means that any worker paid at the minimum wage, in France, can buy - then feed - the equivalent of 60 to 80 horses with 6 to 8 months of salary. And oil would be expensive (ter) ?

When flying, any passenger consumes 1 kWh for 2 km on average. A return flight from Paris to Rome, that anyone can afford today, represents 2.240 km, thus 1.100 kWh of energy. A single flight in Europe represents as much energy as 6 pairs of legs over a full year...

Even a small 50 cm3 moped, with its 2 ou 3 kW of engine power, is already the equivalent of 15 to 20 human beings

We experience lives of ready affluence because of the energy servants placed at our disposal by our technological societies. The scientists, engineers, electricians, construction workers, maintenance workers, factory workers, truckers, dock workers, railroad workers, workers in shipping and receiving--all those and more keep our energy slaves functioning constantly. Most of us could not imagine life without our slaves.

Energy conservation is not good enough. We must have more energy sources, to feed the growing number of servants we acquire.
However, it is clear that energy conservation alone cannot solve the increasing global demand for energy. Thus, it is now more imperative that ever to foster research into new and alternative energy sources. Research into fuel cells, wave power, wind power, photovoltaics and micro-turbines with combined heat and power capability is now of critical importance to the development of modern sustainable electrical power systems. Indeed these sources may well have an impact on the fundamental structure of such systems in the future with the possibility of increased medium power dc transmission networks to accommodate smaller local distributed generation units.

There are many solutions to the convergence of increasing energy demand with plateauing supplies of some fossil fuels such as sweet light crude oil. The first step is to stop denying the need to solve the problem.

Conservation alone will not solve it. Renewables such as solar and wind will not be in a position to put a dent in the problem until much better storage options (such as utility scale redox flow cells) are online. We can no longer afford to look at nuclear energy as unworkable. Once we accept that nuclear electric generation is a necessary bridge to a more renewable future, we can set about making nuclear energy safer and more economical/reliable in all the stages of its life cycle.

Over the next 20 to 30 years, the almost unlimited energy resources of geothermal , solar, wind and sea, will be more available. Perhaps within 50 years, nuclear fusion will be ready to provide large scale energy. But in the meantime, people are not going to give up their energy slaves, no matter how much lip service they give to conservation and cutting down "greenhouse gases." When it comes to their own comfort, these people will not go down gently.

Many people who call themselves "environmentalists" are actually dieoff.org sympathizers. They want to see billions of Earth's residents removed, or "cleansed," from the planet. Leaving them in charge of a pristine Gaia, of course.

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Blogger Ugh said...

I have often said the key to our success as a country and as the human race in general is more energy use, not less. Riding bikes and walking to work or to the grocery store are great personal virtues, bully for those who have this luxury, but for the rest of us we measure productivity, success and wealth creation in terms of energy... A successful man like Albert Gore uses tons more energy than the rest of us.

Monday, 09 July, 2007  
Blogger al fin said...


It is a wonderful luxury to be able to walk or bicycle safely to work, to the gym, to your favourite restaurants, and most of your shopping. In my nomadic life I have enjoyed that luxury a few times.

I am in favour of more communities where such "walking distance" convenience is possible. For most people in suburbia and rural settings, life revolves around motorized transportation.

But even for most of the walkers and bikers, the number of energy slaves is going to grow. Unless they are willing to give up their high speed internet, cable TV, desktop fabs, and the possibility of electric vehicles.

The ampere really does strike back.

Monday, 09 July, 2007  

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