Subject: The Impending Energy Crunch (WAS RE: [CAHS] Letter to Editor)

The Impending Energy Crunch

Thanks to Dick Clifford for providing additional information on alternative energy. I did not know that Petrotherm has offered to provide 8 times the current consumption of electricity in SA for 100 years. I suppose the cost of this electricity, produced from geothermal sources, will be much less than the current cost of electricity in SA. I have doubts on these claims. Has the SA government embraced this plan as it promises a win all round? I do not think there is so easy a solution for the other states. If there is then we can forget about expensive and ugly solar and wind farms. In a hundred years science would have discovered how limitless energy could be produced from nuclear fusion (which unlike nuclear fission requires no uranium ore). So the future will be assured.

I do not think that anyone is naive enough to think that oil will not run out one day, and coal some centuries later. The question in dispute is whether Peak Oil has already arrived. The onset of Peak Oil is determined by the price of oil. If this price increases then at some point oil from tar sands and ocean depths could be harnessed thus postponing the arrival of Peak Oil. But of course ultimately Peak Oil must come. So the Energy Crunch will come some day (barring the Petrotherm scenario mentioned earlier which is not feasible for many parts of Australia and the world, and is even questionable for SA).

While the supply side is the one to which most attention is focused with regards to generating the Energy Crunch equally important is the demand side. This comes from increasing population and the constant expectation of the have-nots that they must catch up with the living standards of the rich. Meanwhile the population as a whole could grow at an exponential rate. I had drawn attention to this in my Manussa blog ID = m02.

The solution to the Energy Crunch is a complex one and it will have to be attacked from many angles with different people offering their expertise in different areas. As the population factor (both absolute number and quality of life) is an important factor in generating the Crunch there will be many ways in which this particular aspect can be tackled. One of the factors leading to population growth is the attitude of religions to this question. It is here that Humanists have a role to play. Otherwise Humanists do not have special qualifications to make pronouncements on other aspects other than as concerned citizens.

Victor Gunasekara


----Original Message -----
From: Dick Clifford [mailto:rmc@adelaide.on.net]
Sent: Tuesday, June 19, 2007 12:20 AM
To: humanist@topica.com
Subject: Re: [CAHS] Letter to the Editor

Victor,

While you are correct in saying solar, wind and waves etc will generate inadequate power, geothermal power is another matter. Petrotherm, who are developing in the NE of SA, claim that they will be able to produce 8 times the amount of power currently consumed in SA for 100 years. There are other firms in different parts of Australia, some may be more advanced.
I also realise that Governments and Industry are working on these problems and while they talk a lot about global warming they dont mention Peak Oil and even less is published in the press. I suspect they are all afraid of offending the gods of Coal and Oil.

A major difficulty of Nuclear power is if you build too many plants world wide they will use up the high quality ore in 10 years, the remaining ore will be expensive and produce more CO2. The ITER Tokamak (nuclear fission) Final Design Report was produced in July 2001 but I have not heard about further progress.

Roads congested with little cars is a serious problem, and is one of the many reasons why the public should be informed. It might become necessary to restrict the use of your car to 3 days a week. At present business is booming which means the world is emitting more CO2 and using up oil too fast. Our current dependence on oil and the increasing price will cause a financial crash bigger than the 30s, causing mass unemployment, suicides, death, war. This is why we have to work hard at producing power even from inadequate sources so that some semblance of civilisation will be retained.

Dick Clifford.

Victor Gunasekara wrote:

Solar generated electricity and electric cars which Dick Clifford is advocating in his Letter to the Editor are things which are under serious consideration by Governments and Industry even now. The problem is that with existing technology power derived from the sun, wind, waves etc. will not generate enough power to meet even base load let alone in addition power an entire transport system. Unless practical ways of how this can be done are shown merely arguing in the abstract will not be sufficient.

Nuclear power is a possible alternative but proving difficult to get past environmental considerations. The long-term solution may lie in fusion not fission technology. But this has not even been demonstrated to be feasible in the laboratory.

Of course if small electric cars become feasible and cost-efficient there will be massive congestion on the roads which will require massive investment on transport infrastructure that will cancel any of the gain made by switching to smaller cars. In a capitalist economy it is consumer demand that will determine the direction of innovation and production. While government regulation can make changes it can rarely bring about a radical change such as has been advocated.

Victor Gunasekara