[ExI] Silence in the sky-but why?

Tomasz Rola rtomek at ceti.pl
Wed Sep 25 19:13:42 UTC 2013

On Tue, 24 Sep 2013, John Clark wrote:

> On Mon, Sep 23, 2013  Tomasz Rola <rtomek at ceti.pl> wrote:
> > I am not going to bet on ten years either.
> So what? We don't need to deploy it in the coming ten years either.

The thing that worries me is that for the coming 10 or 20 years 
civilisation's back is barely covered. At least this is impression I get 
from processing tons of news over years and extracting thin layer that 
remains on the bottom.

I'd say it is much more complicated than availability of oil/gas/coal or 
anything. Perhaps only one more bankster affaire stands between today and 

This is why I feel so uneasy whenever I read uberoptimists who claim that 
this or that will soon deliver us all from the darkness. The "soon" is not 
going to happen soon, AFAIK.

> > The closest date for some results seems to be somewhere around 2030:
> >
> 17 years is more than good enough.

If we manage to keep going in good enough shape all this time and some 
more to build all required plants and infrastructure to support them. This 
is plan for decades and decades make me worry.

> > Moreover, there are quite a few problems not yet fully researched or
> > solved:
> >
> Sure there are still technological problems to be solved, but they are
> trivial compared with the problems of making wind power abundant and
> economical, and super trivial compared with making even an experimental
> fusion reactor that just produces a little more energy that it needs for
> operation. And yet over the last 30 years tens of billions of dollars have
> been spent on fusion research but virtually nothing on Thorium research.

Perhaps it is worth noticing that technical problems are not the most 
important even if they are the most difficult, perhaps. I wonder if there 
is anything that would make next 30 years any different wrt money spent on 
thorium? There seems to be plenty of politics in it. I would be far from 
blaiming greens for all the wrong, unless people like Bush Jr, he-Clinton 
and consortes are green, too. If you consider all politicians and other 
decision makers (Koch brothers, Gates family etc) to be green, than our 
understandings of the word is very different from each other.

>   > For me, thorium is just a possibility. It is not something I'd bet all
> > my eggs on.
> >
> But wind power and solar power and, god help us, bio-fuel, is something to
> bet all your eggs on?

Well, no. I wouldn't mind if every city and town possessed thorium plant, 
solar & wind farm and geostationary solar power plus as much coal plant as 
needed. The problem I see (and I once or twice wrote about it here, with 
some calculations about solar) is that none of this option alone is going 
to do the job, and there are issues (most of those are about ability to 
mine enough ore, build enough infrastructure, manufacture the 
manufacturing plants and so on). Besides, it seems like too many people 
count on "free market wisdom" to arrange things in such a way that all 
ends well. The problem with this is, I dont think there is such thing as 
"free market" and "wisdom" is disputable, too. There may be also, let's 
call it "silicon valley bias" with people soaked deeply in those stories, 
about guys who deliver few Perl scripts overnight, next year they IPO and 
two years later they buy an island and whatnot. If energy could be done in 
software (especially in Perl, PHP or Java), we would have had it by now.

I could agree if someone said we have enough time only to make one 
solution, the one that is
  1) drop in
  2) solves about 70-90% of energy needs.
  3) could be done in ten years, from grounds up to delivery on mass 
scale (more than doubling each year after going to market).

Thorium, wind, ground solar are out of the equation. Biofuels and hydro do 
not scale up.

I may disagree with you (or whoever else I see ok to disagree with) on 
something but this not necessarily means I belong to those who too 
disagree with you. Perhaps I disagree because I have my own brain, rather 
than want to be part of some group?

> > BTW, thorium abundance is problematic to me, too. I have read it is only
> > 3-4 times more abundant than uranium.
> Uranium is not a particularly rare element and Thorium is much more common
> than Uranium, in fact it's almost twice as common as Tin. And Thorium is
> easier to extract from its ore than Uranium. At best a (non-breeder)
> Uranium reactor only uses .7% of its fuel (and usually less than that)
> because it can only get energy from the rare U235 isotope; but natural
> Thorium has only one isotope and a Thorium reactor can use 100% of it.
> It would only take 2000 tons of Thorium to equal the energy in 6 billion
> tons of coal that the world uses each year. There is 120 TRILLION tons of
> Thorium in the earth's crust and if the world needs 10 times as much energy
> as we get from just coal then we will run out of Thorium in the crust of
> this planet in 6 billion years.

3/4 of the crust is below water, thus a bit harder to get to. The rest is 
ok to mine, but the deeper the mining, the harder again. I could easily 
believe we can power ourselves on Th for the next 600 years but 6E9 sounds 
many orders of magnitude too optimistic. I'd like to make my own 
calculations if brain and time suffice. Not today, however. Do you have 
any link to where this claim of yours is somehow explained?

Tomasz Rola

** A C programmer asked whether computer had Buddha's nature.      **
** As the answer, master did "rm -rif" on the programmer's home    **
** directory. And then the C programmer became enlightened...      **
**                                                                 **
** Tomasz Rola          mailto:tomasz_rola at bigfoot.com             **

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