[extropy-chat] A Grim Vision ...?

Robert Bradbury robert.bradbury at gmail.com
Fri Apr 13 11:37:37 UTC 2007

On 4/12/07, Morris Johnson <mfj.eav at gmail.com> wrote:

> > Some food sectors will have to adjust economics, marketing, or
> > simply reduce available  food supply.
> Yep, as long as we are stupid enough to turn a primary, relatively
> high input, food into ethanol.

Give me a break.  No existing "natural" photosynthetic system (be it based
on corn, soybeans or "natural" grasses) can be considered "efficient".
Natural photosynthetic systems have at best 4% efficiency (sugar cane under
ideal conditions) and are usually 2% or less.  Plants should not be green.
The should be black.  Existing solar cells range from 6% to 36% efficiency
depending on what they are made of and groups have been funded to push those
into the 45-55% range.

The primary advantage that "natural" systems have is that they are based on
self-replicating systems and do not require the huge up-front investments
that would be required to cover the SW U.S. (or all U.S. homes, stores,
etc.) in solar cells.  So if you want a solution and want it quickly it
should be based on self-replicating systems and the general technology
development path within those systems should be in the direction of greater

What people aren't generally aware of is that more ideal "natural"
photosynthetic systems can be pushed to 6-8% efficiency in
photobioreactors.  So the solution for maximal output (either for food or
fuel) is solar ponds using a mix of photosynthetic microorganisms.  What you
want is photosynthetic spirulina for food and photosynthetic yeast for
alcohol.  It is worth noting that something like a dozen different species
of photosynthetic microorganisms have been sequenced and the information is
sitting in NCBI or DOE databases.  Constructing solar ponds has
significantly lower technology inputs, investment requirements and
bureaucracy and legal headaches compared with nuclear reactors.  Also worth
noting is that one can do it on land which may or will be unsuitable for
natural agricultural production.

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