[ExI] Energy Defeatism (was: Wind, solar could provide 99.9% of ALL POWER by 2030)

spike spike66 at att.net
Sun Dec 16 21:31:30 UTC 2012

-----Original Message-----
From: extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org
[mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org] On Behalf Of Ben Zaiboc
Sent: Sunday, December 16, 2012 10:21 AM
To: extropy-chat at lists.extropy.org
Subject: [ExI] Energy Defeatism (was: Wind, solar could provide 99.9% of ALL
POWER by 2030)

"spike" <spike66 at att.net> wrote:

>... On Behalf Of BillK

>...Wind, solar could provide 99.9% of ALL POWER by 2030 Even better: It
could do so at the same cost as fossil fuels


>>...These kinds of schemes benefit greatly if we think of ways in which we
could be more tolerant of temporary lack or shortage of electrical power.

>...Plus a load of other highly depressing stuff about the need to conserve

>...This is supposed to be good news?  Ben

No, I don't claim it is good news.  What I have a lot of is found in the
extropian principles 3.0 number 3, Practical Optimism.  The adjective
practical is necessary in this context.  (Note: before anyone is tempted to
comment they like the principles 2.0 better, branch that discussion with a
new subject line.)  Ben, we have a lot of practical optimists here,
technically trained, highly skilled, you among them.  So we are ideally
suited to deal with these kinds of mega-problems.

Regarding what I see as the mega-problem staring us in the face, far far
more urgent than the headline grabbing global warming notion, is that our
low cost energy sources are gradually declining, and we seem to be making
few and insufficient steps to compensate, at least in the short run.
Regarding carbon combustion as a prime mover, which is where most energy
comes from now and will continue for some time, even those among us who
recognize dwindling low-cost energy availability as the primary threat also
recognize that carbon dioxide does create greenhouse effect.  That is an
easy calculation.  We also recognize that carbon dioxide is a ground state
compound, so it doesn't break down.  It is already down.  Point: there is no
point in denying that enough of the stuff can impact climate, and if it
does, the rich industrialized nations will be largely blamed, and expected
to pay for all the basket case pre-industrial places.  Even if many
recognize that carbon dioxide is only one player and that irrigation plays a
big part in greenhouse effect, the big carbon dioxide producers will still
be blamed.  Do you see any flaws in my reasoning so far?

If not, then consider: we as a species have plenty of tools to foresee what
is coming, but we appear to be making almost no effective collective effort
to deal with it.  We might see something like Keith's vision come to
fruition, but I see no indication there is even passing interest in it from
those who have the means to make something like that happen.

I conclude that regardless of what we do at this point, even with very
optimistic assumptions on energy futures, we will pass through a time in
which we will need to deal with high power costs, intermittency,
under-voltages and so on.  But another way to look at it is this: we need
these kinds of discomforts in order to move us as a species.  We are
comfortable and conservative.  We have grown fat and lazy on easily
available oil that still gushes out of the ground.  We want to stay that
way.  Until that starts to seriously dwindle, it will be hard to move us.
But uncomfortable people use their heads and make things happen.  Hungry
people are aggressive and inventive.  So this is my form of practical
optimism: humanity will eventually solve our energy problems, but we will
likely not do it before the low-hanging fruit is picked and devoured in its


The rest of Ben's post left intact below:

That we can possibly, maybe, get almost all of the energy that we are
currently using from 'renewable' resources if we are very careful and reduce
our need for energy as much as possible?

Sorry, but I thought this was the extropian list, not the 'sustainability'
list (where sustainability is just an euphemism for the long, slow slide
into barbarism and extinction, barring any catastrophic extinction events
that get us first).

Note that the "ALL POWER" referred to, is all of our /current/ energy needs,
not the considerably greater needs of a halfway-decent civisisation.  Maybe
I'm on my own here, but I won't settle for anything less than a
*superabundance* of energy, enough energy that everyone can run their own
simulated civilisation at whatever speed they wish, with enough left over to
send interstellar probes to other stars at decent fractions of C, to build
routers for those hardy explorers who don't mind being out of touch with the
cradle of civilisation for a few subjective millennia.  Plus keeping the
TVs/internet connections/digital assistants/exoselves/whatever, of at least
a few hundreds of billions of sophonts active *all the time*.  
I'm talking about a situation where the concept of 'brownout' is a quaint
historical footnote that most people are blissfully unaware of, and the rest
chuckle uneasily at the sheer poverty of the society that coined the term.

Again, sorry if I offend anyone here, but I regard the sentiment behind the
subject line of the ancestor of this post to be Failure Mode No. 1.  As far
as I can see, it signals the beginning of the end.

Resident geniuses (you know who you are), please feel free to disabuse me of
this notion.

Or maybe there's some Cunning Plan that involves getting to energy
superabundance via 'alternative' energy that I'm not aware of.  I sincerely
hope so.

Ben Zaiboc,

(who uses quotes around 'alternative' energy because there's no such thing.
Energy is energy.  There are just high- and low- density sources of it)

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