[ExI] Obama Transition Team Examining Space Solar Power

hkhenson hkhenson at rogers.com
Wed Dec 24 16:17:51 UTC 2008

At 10:22 PM 12/23/2008, Kevin wrote:


>I just wanted to mention, running off your post, that these people 
>are perhaps the least of our worries.  Just think what space solar 
>power would mean to all those countries, companies, government 
>agencies, non-profit groups, etc., etc., who, today, depend on 
>things staying the way they are.  Consider existing power plants, 
>the people who own a stake in them, the people who run them, the 
>people who are employed by them; consider foreign nations for whom 
>their oil resources are their sole link to a tolerable standard of 
>living; and on and on.  There is more to fear from desperate people 
>than anyone else.  If Obama, by some stretch of the imagination, 
>decides to launch some kind of program to make space solar power 
>feasable, don't you see how many powerful interests such a move 
>would rise up to oppose him?  Just like anything else, there is so 
>much favoring the status quo.

Last summer's oil spike was enough to convince a lot of people that 
the status quo isn't there any more.  Besides, if anyone takes the 
trouble to think about it, power sats make existing power plants very 
valuable.  Why?  We still need liquid fuels and power plants have 
everything you need to make them.  A typical power plant can be 
converted to a liquid fuel plant and make more money.

500MW is 500,000 kW.  8000 hr in a year.  4 billion kWh.   At 
$0.05/kWh that's $200 M a year.  Profit would be at best $20 M a year.

Converted to a liquid fuel plant, the former power plant would use 
the same amount of coal and turn out (at $35/bbl) about $220 M a 
year.  So profit would be in the same range.  As the cost of power 
declined, they could substitute CO2 as the carbon source.  I am 
giving a talk in late January on making synthetic fuel in the field 
for the military using lots of space based solar power.

I don't have any problem with the Saudis building/buying power sats 
and becoming a supplier of synthetic oil.  Though with really vast 
amounts of power sat energy they might choose to be farmers using 
desalinated water.

>Which makes what Keith just said sound suspicious to me:
>"In late 1975 a team from the just formed L-5 Society went to the 
>limits to growth conference held that year near Houston.  Dr. Peter 
>Vajk (physics) was with us so we had the credentials to present 
>power satellites as long term solution to the energy (resource) 
>limits and to be taken seriously.  We were nearly kicked out.  It 
>isn't that people disbelieve that there is a solution to such 
>problems, the _DON'T WANT A SOLUTION_.  A substantial fraction, 
>perhaps even a majority of the elite, want a collapse.  Exactly why 
>isn't easy for me to pick out of their rationalizations.  Guilt 
>perhaps, I just don't know.  I had another of these experiences last week."

I wish I could name the person I talked to last week.  I should 
ask.  The person involved was fully aware of the dire consequences in 
terms of human suffering.  However this person rated the plants and 
animals displaced by humans as more important and was looking forward 
to famines and wars.  This person's personal approach is moving to a 
remote area and living in a house built from bales of straw.

>I think when I hear things like this there is reason to be at least 
>a little cynical.  The political barriers may be more dire than the 
>technological ones.

That's almost always the case.  Read up on the history of the big 
power projects in the west.


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