Monday, April 14, 2008

Energy energy everywhere

The amount of corn it takes to produce 75 litres of ethanol -roughly a tank of fuel- is enough corn to feed one person on a 2,000-calorie-a-day diet for a year.
I heard this on the NPR earlier this week and have been thinking it over it. There are many things I could do which, in the abstract, would end up feeding an entire Thai village. But the point that we are directly trading food for gas is powerful. Now that oil isn't cheap we are having to look to other sources of energy.
The United States has already lost the leadership it had in solar photovoltaics and wind, thanks to deep budget cuts by President Reagan and the Newt Gingrich-led Congress. By 2010, China will be the top manufacturer of photovoltaic cells and wind turbines. Must we also abandon our historical leadership in concentrated solar power to conservative doctrine? Other countries, particularly Spain but also Israel and Australia, are poised to be dominant. And China, which has already begun importing coal and pursuing CSP projects, will not be far behind. CSP could well be one of the major job-creating industries of the century.

Both these items resonate after I read the
book "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed" by Jared Diamond. The main point of the book is that the successful societies are the ones that remain adaptable, are efficient and can evolve quickly enough to match changes in the environment and social conditions. If you keep doing the same thing as your world is falling apart, then you fail.

"Doctrine" is holding us back, again. It isn't reality that is pushing energy and environmental policy in Washington, but a view of the way the world "should" be. "The the invisible hand of the free markets should shape the world. When solar energy is cost effective...." I think the invisible hand of Nature is going to slap the crap out of all of us, or maybe slowly squeeze the breathe out of us.

We all know that trying to find more hydrocarbon and using food for gas isn't going to fix the world's energy problems. It would be doing the same thing over and over even as we know it is bad for the long-term. But with a little foresight, looking at the facts, the science, we could make headway to solving both problems. It is going to require leadership and tough choices, but really quite an opportunity.

The current President thought being a "war president" would cement his name in stone as a great leader, better than his daddy at least. I think the next great president is the one that is going to directly address these issues. Where is Al anyway.

The photo up top is of the family on the hill across the valley.

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