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Morning Feature: Digging Deeper – Energy tradeoffs – Renewables

December 7, 2010

Morning Feature

Morning Feature: Digging Deeper – Energy tradeoffs – Renewables

This morning Morning Feature will present part two of a two-part discussion digging deeper into alternative energy sources and the tradeoffs they present. Today we will look at renewable energy sources. UPDATED: Bringing it together (More)

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UPDATE: A new discussion starts Wednesday with this comment hoping to bring both weeks together (Bridge Fuels and Renewables) and including nuclear power which was missed in the Bridge discussion but which U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu mentioned yesterday as part of the mix. What is the proper mix of bridge and renewables and what should be our goal?

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The Tuesday Digging Deeper Morning Feature surveys an ongoing news topic through multiple sources to invite in-depth conversation. Please check back over the coming days for additional comments. This week’s Digging Deeper topic is energy tradeoffs for renewable sources of energy.

Most people are in agreement that we (the global we) need to find alternative sources of energy. Fossil fuels have enormous costs (human and environmental) related to extraction and their burning creates deadly gases that lead to global warming. In the long run, well, there is no long run since fossil fuels are not renewable. When they are gone, they are gone.

Last week we discussed two energy sources, “Clean” Coal and bio fuels (ethanol) which would be more transitional (we cannot and should not use them forever). Today we will discuss two that could be the energy of the future – both are renewable.

So what are the minuses involved in renewal resources? In all of the material I reviewed, those who discuss the drawbacks are always quick to point out “but they are better than fossil fuels”. I think that one could concede that point and still want to make sure that the trade-offs being made are both necessary and right.

Wind Energy
Wind power is “the conversion of wind energy into a useful form of energy, such as using wind turbines to make electricity, wind mills for mechanical power, wind pumps for pumping water or drainage, or sails to propel ships”

Compared to the environmental effects of traditional energy sources, the environmental effects of wind power are relatively minor. Wind power consumes no fuel, and emits no air pollution, unlike fossil fuel power sources. The energy consumed to manufacture and transport the materials used to build a wind power plant is equal to the new energy produced by the plant within a few months of operation. Garrett Gross, a scientist from UMKC in Kansas City, Missouri states, “The impact made on the environment is very little when compared to what is gained.” The initial carbon dioxide emission from energy used in the installation is “paid back” within about 2.5 years of operation for offshore turbines.

Here are the most often cited negatives:

Dangers to Birds and Bats

American Bird Conservancy cites studies that indicate that about 10,000 – 40,000 birds die each year from collisions with wind turbines in the U.S. and say that number may rise substantially as wind capacity increases in the absence of mandatory guidelines. However, studies show that the number of birds killed by wind turbines is very low compared to the number of those that die as a result of certain other ways of generating electricity and especially of the environmental impacts of using non-clean power sources.

Aesthetics

In the USA, the Massachusetts Cape Wind project was delayed for years mainly because of aesthetic concerns. In the UK, repeated opinion surveys have shown that more than 70% of people either like, or do not mind, the visual impact. According to a town councillor in Ardrossan, Scotland, the overwhelming majority of locals believe that the Ardrossan Wind Farm has enhanced the area, saying that the turbines are impressive looking and bring a calming effect to the town.

Noise

In the United States, law suits and complaints have been filed in several states, citing noise, vibrations and resulting lost property values in homes and businesses located close to industrial wind turbines.

One family’s noise problem

Not long after the wind turbines began to spin in March near Gerry Meyer’s home, his son Robert, 13, and wife, Cheryl, complained of headaches.
They have trouble sleeping, and Cheryl Meyer, 55, sometimes feels a fluttering in her chest. Gerry is sometimes nauseated and hears crackling.

The culprit, they say, is the whooshing sound from the five industrial wind turbines near the 6-acre spread where they have lived for 37 years. “I don’t think anyone should have to put up with this,” says Gerry Meyer, who compares the sound to a helicopter or a jet taking off.

Disposal

Wiwo…wiwo…wiwo. The sound floats on the winds of Ka Le, this southernmost tip of Hawaii’s Big Island, where Polynesian colonists first landed some 1,500 years ago.

Some say that Ka Le is haunted — and it is. But it’s haunted not by Hawaii’s legendary night marchers. The mysterious sounds are “Na leo o Kamaoa”– the disembodied voices of 37 skeletal wind turbines abandoned to rust on the hundred-acre site of the former Kamaoa Wind Farm.

Changes to Downstream Weather
Wind farms can change surface air temperatures in their vicinity:

The giant wind turbines cropping up on ridges, shorelines and other windy locales across the world affect more than the wind—they are also changing local temperatures, notes a new study. That’s likely because the enormous blades chop up the incoming wind and thereby more thoroughly mix different layers of the atmosphere.

“In a subsequent study that has been submitted to another journal, we found that these impacts are restricted to a small area around the wind farms,” [atmospheric scientist Somnath Baidya Roy ] says, though some modeling studies of wind turbines covering hundreds of thousands of square kilometers suggest such massive wind farms could affect global climate.

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Solar Energy
Solar power is “the conversion of sunlight into electricity, either directly using photovoltaics (PV), or indirectly using concentrated solar power (CSP). CSP systems use lenses or mirrors and tracking systems to focus a large area of sunlight into a small beam. PV converts light into electric current using the photoelectric effect.”.

The Union of Concerned Scientists notes these drawbacks:

Since solar power systems generate no air pollution during operation, the primary environmental, health, and safety issues involve how they are manufactured, installed, and ultimately disposed of.

Manufacturing

Materials used in some solar systems can create health and safety hazards for workers and anyone else coming into contact with them. In particular, the manufacturing of photovoltaic cells often requires hazardous materials such as arsenic and cadmium. Even relatively inert silicon, a major material used in solar cells, can be hazardous to workers if it is breathed in as dust.

Land Use

The large amount of land required for utility-scale solar power plants-approximately one square kilometer for every 20-60 megawatts (MW) generated-poses an additional problem, especially where wildlife protection is a concern. Most discussions of land use compare the solar plant needs to other energy generation needs.

Disposal Issues:

Today’s solar PV sector bears striking similarities to the emerging electronics industry of the 1980s, when supposedly “clean” manufacturing plants polluted Silicon Valley groundwater, causing death and illness in nearby communities. The high-tech industry’s failure to plan for safe end-of-life product disposal has resulted in a global flood of electronic waste (e-waste). The U.S. generates an estimated 2.2 million tons of e-waste annually, and this will continue to grow with the industry’s rapid rate of technological change.i U.S. e-waste is currently shipped to the poorest parts of the world for manual disassembly and recovery of valuable scrap materials. It is anticipated that in 30 years the world’s poorest in cities like Nairobi, Delhi, and Manila (and also in U.S. prisons) may be sorting our solar PV waste.

Our own citisven weighed in on e-Waste in Our Earth: If you are reading this …

Increase in the sun’s reflectivity (albedo)
Solar energy that would have bounced back out into space is collected by solar cells, and eventually dispersed as heat when the electricity is used. The Earth’s energy budget may get out of whack:

The Earth can be considered as a physical system with an energy budget that includes all gains of incoming energy and all losses of outgoing energy. The planet is approximately in equilibrium, so the sum of the gains is approximately equal to the sum of the losses.

The heat-islanding effect of solar panels may create more global warming.

I encourage you to follow the links and read the articles.

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Here are some questions to get us started, not in any order and not intended to be all inclusive:

1. How much harm to an individual is “okay” for the greater good? Who decides?
2. Is there really anything that is completely without drawbacks?
3. Do we hold out for better wind turbines? What are the tradeoffs for waiting?
4. Are there better technologies on the horizon?
5. Is the disposal issue a big deal or not?
6. What kind of risks are workers being subjected to?

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Please share your thoughts and additional links in the Comments.

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At BPI Campus.com our Progressive Agenda is:
1. People matter more than profits.
    • Corollary: Each person matters … equally.
2. The earth is our home, not our trash can.
3. We need good government for both #1 and #2.

  • JanF

    I have to admit to a certain amount of surprise when I dug deeper into this topic. I was aware of the wind energy issues related to noise because there are wind farms in Wisconsin that I have driven by and the plight of the people near them is in our local news.

    I was surprised, though, about the dangers from manufacturing solar panels (the toxic stuff that goes into them) and the e-waste concerns of disposing of them. The link on the disposal issues is to the Texas Solar Energy Society and their stated goal is to get in front of the issues to resolve them before they become a problem. Their web site has their slogan across the top: “The Solution Comes Up Every Morning”. Cute.

    Renewable sources of energy are needed but we need to make sure that the technology includes consideration of the human impact. It may be too easy to say that renewable sources of energy benefit us all so the people who are harmed are simply collateral damage. That makes me pretty itchy and I would hope we can find a way to reduce the harm.

  • DWG

    Nice post, Jan. Great detail.

    I would add one other issue with solar. Water use. Current systems tend to be water intensive in areas that tend to have very limited water resources. I think the challenge in the evolution of solar systems will be to address water use. However, unlike nuclear and fossil fuels, there is no degradation of water resources through contaminated waste water that requires treatment or storage.

    • JanF

      Excellent point. Many of the largest solar power systems are in the middle of the desert … not much water there. Since humans also need water to hydrate themselves, the tradeoff between water for hydration and water for solar energy could become intense.

      Do you have any links to the water usage? I would be interested in knowing how they can say there is no contamination of the water and I wonder if they are just saying that the contamination is cleanable. Obviously nasty chemicals and radioactive material permanently contaminates the water but most of us use water already that has been “cleaned”.

      • DWG

        I am digging them up. Will get back to you.

      • DWG

        This NYT piece goes into some detail. I ran across the issue in looking at water wars developing in Texas. Here is a discussion from Arizona.

        • addisnana

          Thanks for the links DWG. These topics are so big that I find myself chewing on them for days, if not weeks.

        • JanF

          I am going to bring a couple blockquotes into the blog for us to chew on:

          From the NY Times piece:

          The West’s water wars are likely to intensify with Pacific Gas and Electric’s announcement on Monday that it would buy 500 megawatts of electricity from two solar power plant projects to be built in the California desert.

          The Genesis Solar Energy Project would consume an estimated 536 million gallons of water a year, while the Mojave Solar Project would pump 705 million gallons annually for power-plant cooling, according to applications filed with the California Energy Commission.

          The Genesis and Mojave projects will use solar trough technology that deploys long rows of parabolic mirrors to heat a fluid to create steam that drives an electricity-generating turbine. The steam must be condensed back into water and cooled for re-use.

          Solar trough developers prefer to use so-called wet cooling in which water must be constantly be replenished to make up for evaporation. Regulators, meanwhile, are pushing developers to use dry cooling, which takes about 90 percent less water but is more expensive and reduces the efficiency –- and profitability – of a power plant.

          Apparently the water being diverted had been used for agriculture. One plant in the area gave up trying to fight the water wars and switched to dry cooling.

          • JanF

            dry cooling, which takes about 90 percent less water but is more expensive and reduces the efficiency –- and profitability – of a power plant.

            I am struck by this sentence. The profitability is important in order to get companies to want to build and run power plants but it should not be the overriding concern. Water usage in the West is a BHD (Big Hairy Deal).

            • DWG

              That is the key. Wet cooling methods, given current technology, are more efficient and less expensive, allowing solar to compete with non-renewable energy sources even with all the subsidies still going to fossil fuels.

              The crux of the problem is enormous because the optimal areas for solar generation have limited water supplies. However, I doubt we have the ability as a society to debate water use for solar power generation while ignoring the larger problems of diverting water for agriculture and large population growth in arid areas. All things considered, it may be a far more rational use of limited water to produce solar energy than agriculture and unfettered population growth in dry area.

        • JanF

          From the Arizona piece:

          Federal land managers are raising concerns about water needs for some types of solar energy projects in the Western U.S. An AP story this weekend reprints an email from the director of the National Park Service’s Pacific West Region to the BLM’s Nevada state director, where he writes, “It is not in the public interest for BLM to approve plans of development for water-cooled solar energy projects in the arid basins of southern Nevada, some of which are already over-appropriated.”

          In Arizona, most of the proposed solar projects are outside the central urban areas where water resources are most competitive.

  • addisnana

    I have driven by the “blades” of the wind mills as they are being transported. Along I80 in Iowa there are quite a few wind farms. One semi cab and a very long trailer pulling the blade changes one’s perspective. As they pass me (I usually drive 55) they seem so much bigger than they do when I gaze at them erected and spinning off in the distance.

    I take this as steps in the direction of sustainability. I expect us to learn from each of the steps we take and make improvements as we go. This post sent me off to my googles. Some place I read about home wind turbines that mount on the side of a house. I didn’t find them yet.

    I think part of how we think about energy has to be conservation and just plain using less. I also think we need to design very different kinds of buildings that use less energy because of insulation, passive solar and recycling air etc.

    • Hoghead99

      Yesterday on TV (see below) there was a home featured that was off the grid. Looked like any suburban or rural home, really. They had a 1,000 watt wind generator on one side of the house, on a “tip-up mast” for easier maintenance. I hadn’t thought of that, pretty nifty…. Anyway, the program showed how they’re doing it, gas cookstove, and a battery room in the basement. Um 24, I think it was, 6 volt wet cell batteries, charged by both the turbine and a PV array out in the yard.

      The Reverend Rice sends folks to http://www.moreenergy.org I think it is. Haven’t visited the site myself, but the winter is young……. Hugggs and good morning.

      Best, HH99

    • JanF

      This is exactly what I was thinking but you say it so clearly:

      I take this as steps in the direction of sustainability. I expect us to learn from each of the steps we take and make improvements as we go.

      And this is critical: “energy has to be conservation and just plain using less”. We probably can’t make enough energy using renewable resources to sustain our current consumption.

      Someone much wiser than me (NCrissieB in a post I can’t find the link to) said this:

      The bottom line on energy is: there’s no such thing as a free lunch. No matter how we humans get energy, we tap into the same energy the earth uses for natural processes. Every energy source has side effects, and we must develop the most sustainable and reliable sources with the fewest and least damaging side effects.

      • kj in missouri

        loved what you both said. we’re (global we) are going to make mistakes, find out we’re disrupting balances we didn’t know existed, and that means (to me) that we need to learn to become less invested in particular plans (ie, lower profit margins) so we don’t become so invested we end up in wars to control sources of energy.

        human beings have a ways to go on that one.

        learning to pivot, quickly, is key. we’ve shown a resistance to change as it is. can we get that idea across? that change is a dance we all must dance to exist?

        rambling thoughts only slightly connected to the topic. the waste of h20 producing solar panels was news to me, the noise of the turbines (that close!) would irk me to no end.

        • JanF

          I was really shocked about the e-waste issues related to solar panels and the nasty things that go into them. For some reason when I think of solar I think of the sun and not how it is harnessed. Or I see these beautiful photos of the reflecting mirrors and don’t think about how they are made or disposed of.

          And yes, the wind would drive me crazy. I saw some articles suggesting that quieter turbines might solve the problem but they are more costly.

  • Hoghead99

    Good morning! Excellent post Jan! I can maybe answer question #2 with my usual quip, “There are pros and cons to everything. If you won the Lotto, there’d be a downside to it.”

    In the St. Louis area, we have a fellow named Larry Rice, he runs the New Life Evangelistic Center, complete with TV station. Stay with me now…… The Reverend Rice not only feeds and shelters the less fortunate, as per our admonition, he is an absolute pit bull about renewable energy! One portion of the HDTV broadcast is almost always featuring renewables, solar, wind, conservation, you-name-it.
    Not only that, he preaches that this is God’s earth, and that we are charged with keeping it clean, and living here wisely. I am very impressed with Larry Rice.

    Hope everyone is well this cold morning!

    Best, HH99

  • J Brunner fan

    Thanks Jan,
    We have water but no sun. So solar powered anything might be helpful in the summer mostly. Have seen wind turbines in commercial areas only. Don’t know about the noise. Since Cleveland is even windier than Chicago, it’s a good idea to encourage wind turbines when possible. Allows a cut back on fossil fuel usage. Seems like a good idea to me.

  • rb137

    Great article, Jan! There are a lot of stumbling blocks to get past on our path to renewable energy, for sure. We have many hard problems that have yet to be solved.

    It would be nice to have some breakthrough that allowed for efficient IR solar technology. IR solar cells are emerging on the market, but I think they could be improved a lot with a little dragon’s magic or eye of newt. (Because IR is lower energy, longer wavelength light than is used in conventional cells, it’s harder to harness. It would be great to do this well, though, because almost a majority of the sun’s energy radiates in the IR.) Still, that doesn’t solve other problems with solar — but it would be nice if we could harness a different part of the spectrum efficiently. But I digress…

    A friend emailed me this article about a project at U Mass Amherst this morning. I’m pretty interested in biomass technology, although there are a couple of bad directions it can turn. All biomass technology is not equal according to the environment. Burning firewood for energy, I suppose, could be considered biomass technology — and I’m always concerned that biomass is going to become the new thing that agribusiness exploits without regard to the hugely negative impact it could have to health and environment. I’ll be reading more about the technology in this article, though.

    Morning all! :)

    • JanF

      Interesting article. I kept seeing biomass in my diggings for this week and last week but I thought it was just burnables which I thought were all bad. Ha. I should know that there is no “all bad” or “all good” after doing these pieces for a month now.

      I have a close relative who has worked on building power plants for the past 30 years. Started with coal, moved to trash burners and now is involved with solar. The trash burning is an interesting one because it takes something that would have just been buried (and needed to be tended in a land fill for centuries) or burned for no gain. I am not sure if anyone is still doing trash burners.

      Here is the Wiki definition of biomass:

      Biomass, a renewable energy source, is biological material from living, or recently living organisms, such as wood, waste, (hydrogen) gas, and alcohol fuels.

      Biomass is commonly plant matter grown to generate electricity or produce heat. In this sense, living biomass can also be included, as plants can also generate electricity while still alive.

      The most conventional way in which biomass is used however, still relies on direct incineration. Forest residues for example (such as dead trees, branches and tree stumps), yard clippings, wood chips and garbage are often used for this. However, biomass also includes plant or animal matter used for production of fibers or chemicals.

      Biomass may also include biodegradable wastes that can be burnt as fuel. It excludes organic materials such as fossil fuels which have been transformed by geological processes into substances such as coal or petroleum.

      Even after reading that, I think biomass is one of those terms that we should always define what we mean. Seems to encompass a lot.

      Thanks for weighing in, rb137.

      • rb137

        I’m optimistic about algae technologies. The good thing about biofuels is that it creates all sorts of possibilities for carbon neutral technologies. They aren’t all good from an eco or sustainability standpoint, though. We’ll see.

        The garbage ones are fun, though. Wouldn’t it be cool to think of garbage as a non-renewable resource?

  • DBunn

    The Birds and the Bees Bats

    A few years back, my dad raised the point about the danger to birds posed by wind farms. My smart-ass response at the time: “Oh, so now we care about birds.”

    I take it as a fair assumption that mercury emissions alone (from burning coal) do far more damage to birds and other life forms than any amount of wind farms ever could.

    • JanF

      I think that was pretty clear from the study. The “alert” about the “new” danger to birds and bats was debunked fairly quickly.

      However, the studies pointed out that the migration habits of birds and bats should be factored into the placement of the wind farms. In Wisconsin, the Horicon Marsh is a large wildlife area which is on the migratory path for a lot of different species of birds. When a company wanted to put a wind farm right on the edge of it, environmentalists objected. They reached a compromise that protected the marsh area and still let the wind farm stay close to where it wanted to (you have to go to where the wind is, you know).

      As with anything, maybe a softer line and some compromise can create a solution that is not perfect but is better.

  • JanF

    PROGRAMMING NOTE – There is no Wednesday Morning Feature.

    Feel free to continue the discussion about Energy sources started here and to connect it back to part 1 of that Digging Deeper which discussed Energy Tradeoffs – Bridge Fuels.

    Maybe one of us will solve the dilemma posed by our need for imperfect bridge fuels getting us to imperfect-but-better renewable resources. And maybe discuss a timeline. What might be a good goal, will we ever be off the bridge fuels?

  • JanF

    Nuclear Power

    I am not too thrilled with the bridge fuels. One of them that was not mentioned in last week’s piece is nuclear. What role does nuclear have in the future? From my reading, most new plants are more difficult to build because of regulatory requirements.

    Just yesterday, Energy Secretary Steven Chu recommended going to more nuclear and clean coal:

    U.S. Energy Secretary Steven Chu said on Tuesday that nuclear power and cleaner-burning coal should be considered for the list of clean energy sources that Congress may require utilities to use to generate electricity.

    Chu, speaking at a nuclear energy conference, said additional energy sources, including nuclear and clean coal, should be looked at as part of a clean energy standard.

    Chu said mandating utilities to generate 25 percent of their electricity from clean energy sources by 2025 and 50 percent by 2050 “is about right.”

    Nuclear Power provided 13% of the world’s electricity in 2009. That is actually down from 15% in 2005.

    Should nuclear be in the mix? What is the acceptable “clean energy sources” goal?

    • NCrissieB

      It’s worth noting that the newer nuclear plant designs are more expensive, in part, because the fuel is prepackaged for waste disposal. Rather than fuel rods that must somehow be sealed before storing underground, the new plants use fuel pellets sealed in thick glass balls. Once the fuel pellets have been spent, the glass balls are ready to bury … with less radiation risk than exists from unmined uranium.

      And that is the only scientifically sensible risk standard: is this less risky than leaving naturally-existing uranium in the ground? If so, it’s good enough.

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

  • Jim W

    Nuclear Power should be in the mix. The source of fuel should be existing stocks from arms programs and reprocessed fuel. Mining for nuclear fuel is a very environmentally destructive process.

    The first goal should be conservation. But conservation is not getting the attention it deserves.

    “This should be a non-partisan issue,” Chu said in Washington during a keynote address at a conference hosted by the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy. “Saving money and helping the American consumer save money is non-partisan.”

    On the other side, the WSJ had this excellent summary article last January.

    Now, as part of the Obama administration’s stimulus plan, renewable-energy producers are eligible for cash grants totaling 30% of the cost of projects they start this year — however high those costs go.

    Before the stimulus, the government subsidized renewable-energy producers with tax credits. But financial institutions typically partnered with small renewable-energy firms and took a cut of the government money, reducing the amount left to fund projects.

    So the temporary cash grant is more efficient, says Jason Grumet, president of the Bipartisan Policy Center, a Washington think tank. Still, he says, even the grant program is “probably providing a much greater subsidy than particular projects require.”

    The Obama administration says renewable-energy companies face a strong market pressure to minimize their costs: They have to compete with falling natural-gas prices. “What we’re seeing is the market price keeping the capital cost of these projects down,” says Matthew Rogers, the Energy Department official overseeing energy spending under the stimulus plan.

    These discussion questions rate a Wednesday Topic even if we don’t have a diary.

    • JanF

      These discussion questions rate a Wednesday Topic even if we don’t have a diary

      I agree, Jim W. I was reminded about the nuclear power option by something I read yesterday and I realized it did not get covered in the bridge fuels. NCrissieB mentioned it in one of her Morning Feature pieces … one that generated a bit of a to-do and a lot of NIMBY.

      Update: Here’s the link Morning Feature: Governing Science, Part I – Fear and Safety

    • DBunn

      First goal should be conservation

      I completely agree, Jim W. By far the most efficient and environmentally responsible way to generate and/or use energy, is not to use it at all when there’s no need to.

      Broadly speaking, we have two main problems in the energy sector: resource supply and waste disposal. Both of these involve finite quantities– the amount of oil/gas/coal in the ground, and the amount of CO2 and other waste products that the environment can absorb. What matters are the aggregate totals of resource use and waste generation from all human activity. We need a rational and humane strategy to manage those aggregate totals. Although technology is obviously an important part of any such strategy, it can’t solve the problem all the way– ultimately, there must be a social component to our solution.

      Proof of the above: if on the technology side we achieve 33% greater efficiency for some simple necessity such as lighting our homes, but on the social side we then light 50% more homes, we have achieved no gain whatsoever with respect to the aggregate totals of resources used and waste generated. This, of course, is exactly what is happening as the people of China, India, South America, Africa, and the rest of Asia seek to join the modern world.

      Well, not quite exactly– I think that’s an understatement of what’s happening. Probably 4 billion people in this world would like to join the 2 billion or so who live a modern lifestyle. Or, to state it even more boldly, 95% of the world’s population would like to live the way that the 5% known as “Americans” presently do. I don’t foresee any combination of technology solutions that can address disequilibrium at that scale. We obviously will have to change our social arrangements as well. This will happen whether we choose it or not, because the laws of physics are like that.

      Examples of social change that could effectively address this disequilibrium include: 1) We go all liberal/socialist and start sharing everything fairly. 2) We revert to a medieval-style caste system in which only some people live well while the rest are peasants, serfs, or slaves. 3) We radically reduce the global population through overt or de facto genocide. 4) We obliterate our species entirely through war, disease, environmental collapse, etc. I might as well say at this point that, from that list, only the first option seems acceptable to me.

      OK, this comment has gotten really out there. I apologize for hi-jacking the topic, and also for being so rude as to mention what will happen in this century if we don’t respond intelligently to our energy problems and the rest of the sustainability crisis. I humbly suggest that progressive values and principles must be at the core and foundation of that intelligent response. If we combine our progressive values with smart use of technology, we actually have a decent chance to do OK. But if we look to technology alone for our solutions, we will solve nothing.

      Huggs etc to all!

      PS I think everybody who is likely to read this comment already knows all this stuff. I just have this need to say it anyhow from time to time. Thanks for putting up with me :)

      • NCrissieB

        Thank you for saying it, DBunn. I agree that most of us would choose Solution #1 if we were frankly aware of the problem and encouraged to make a moral decision. Sadly, too many are unaware of the problem, or have been discouraged from making a moral decision. Those trying to muddy the waters seem to want Solution #2 or Solution #3, and are willing to risk Solution #4.

        If I were a squirrel, that would make me very grumpy. Because I’m here in Germany and the Squirrel is in South Blogistan, I’ll just say that it makes me feel very … challenged.

        Good morning! ::hugggggs::

        • DBunn

          And thank you for saying what you said, Crissie.

          Yes, it is challenging. We have a lot to do, and it can all seem overwhelmingly, paralyzingly scary sometimes. I think it’s helpful to keep the very big picture in mind, though. It helps us remember what journey we are on, where we need to go, and why we need to keep going.

          When I look at issues such as health care reform, or the current attacks on Social Security, I see them in terms of the sustainability challenge. We are choosing the set of core values with which we will address the entire range of social changes that must and will occur, whether we like it or not.

          Huggs etc…

      • JanF

        I don’t think this hijacks the topic at all. We are confronting dilemmas and we need to make moral choices. It does us no good to narrow our choice to wind or solar, coal or nuclear, or whatever.

        You are right that if we achieve 33% energy efficiency and it allows us to light 50% more homes, what the heck are we doing?

        Social change is needed. The 2% that NCrissieB mentioned in her pieces this past summer added up over and over. But it has to start with “wanting to change”. Like George Carlin said, you “gotta wanna”.

  • kj in missouri

    hello? hello? hello?
    my lands-end-stars-and-garters, i have missed your voices.

    as usual, posting on the fly (poor fly, well, if he insists on living in the house in this cold weather i will put him to work) wait, what was i saying?

    oh yeah, i have missed your voices. {{{{{{{Morning Krew}}}}}}}

    • NCrissieB

      Howdy kj. Great to see you again. :grin:

      Good morning! ::hugggggs::

    • JanF

      Howdy, kj! Where the heck have you been?

      • kj in missouri

        i’ve been out-to-lunch. ;-b actually, between work, migraines and serving on a jury trial (!!) and digging through the laundry for clean clothes, just trying to stay up on things.

        top goal: edukate-ing meself on current enviro issues. and of course, i knew where to come for hard facts… HERE!

        carry on. didn’t mean to interrupt. ;-)

    • J Brunner fan

      Hey KJ good to see you! :smile:

  • J Brunner fan

    Hey,
    As far as nuclear is concerned, the French seem to have figured it out. Don’t know whether it is the coal guys influencing policy in DC. Since we really don’t have an energy policy, an economic policy, a jobs policy looks like business as usual. The status quo serves someone. Doesn’t look like it is serving enough people. More like the Untied states of America.

  • SoCalSal

    Excellent info and discussion, JanF. I learned from both. Some of the info smashed some of my long-held preconceptions, which is a good thing. For example, I’d long been adamantly opposed to nuclear power plants and had not kept informed of new technology.

    The Law of Unintended Consequences makes itself known in many ways these days, consequences for every action and inaction. Best we can do is careful evaluation but we can’t evaluate into stasis.

    The video gave me the first experience of hearing wind turbines and new sympathy for those who are exposed to it. I’m sound-sensitive anyway and could not live with that sound, found it extremely disturbing because it sounds similar to heartbeat and blood flow but at a different beat, an interference. An awful sensation that sent me off looking for relief with soothing music.