[ExI] Trying for a minimum technical comment

spike spike66 at att.net
Tue Dec 18 17:41:56 UTC 2012

-----Original Message-----
From: extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org
[mailto:extropy-chat-bounces at lists.extropy.org] On Behalf Of Andrew Mckee
Sent: Tuesday, December 18, 2012 1:59 AM
To: ExI chat list
Subject: Re: [ExI] Trying for a minimum technical comment

On Sun, 16 Dec 2012 07:34:58 +1300, Keith Henson <hkeithhenson at gmail.com>

>> From: "Andrew Mckee" <andymck35 at gmail.com> Is chasing 100% 
>> utilization really worth the expense of putting a PV array in orbit?
>> What am I missing here?
> Lots.  Particularly transmission cost and storage costs.

>...Maybe not so much, I caught your original post about StratoSolar a while
And like many commentators on TOD had the initial reaction that even if a
tethered solution could work from an engineering perspective, the NIMBY
crowd are going to a have field day tearing that proposal to shreds...

When we are warm, well fed and comfortable, the conservative NIMBY crowd and
conservative conservationist crowd has enormous power.  Some find my
adjectives conservative puzzling in this regard since the liberal or
progressive side of the political spectrum is more closely associated with
NIMBY and environmentalism, but if you think it over, these two groups are
conservatives.  We are all conservatives in this sense: we have grown fat
and lazy on easy energy, and we want to stay that way.  Good luck to us.

Regarding the rest of the post, regarding energy ideas, I propose that those
who post on the topic, if you have the engineering expertise to do just
top-level order of magnitude-ish BOTECs, do them and include the basis of
your estimates.  For instance, if you suggest a lighter than air solar panel
powered device that extracts water from the air and converts it to hydrogen,
estimate the size, the energy produced under best-case conditions, take the
minimum power needed to extract a kg of water from the wettest air, the
energy needed to crack it into hydrogen and oxygen, and estimate the value
of the products.  Then with just BOTECs, most ideas would be rejected
immediately: they will not pay, not now, not later.  

The proposed estimation exercise is valuable to help us develop an intuition
regarding which energy schemes are likely to be feasible and which ones do
not deserve a minute of our attention.  Furthermore, the practice is good
for our engineering skills, and perhaps most importantly, it yanks us out of
our conservative complacency, filling us with a sense of urgency about an
enormous problem staring us in the face.  If we can somehow harness the
energy and enthusiasm that the global warming crowd has generated, we can
solve the bigger problem of transition to sustainable energy sources, and
the global warming problem will be solved along with it, or at least

Last point: from an engineering point of view, energy conservation is where
most of the low-hanging fruit is to be found, even now, has been for decades
and likely will be for the immediately foreseeable.  Aggressive energy
conservation makes us less comfortable, which stimulates deep thinking and
investment.  Until you can show calculations to the contrary, do eschew
automatically rejecting the notion, even though it fills us with revulsion
(me included, I like going fast.)  Aggressive energy conservation will
certainly be a factor among many in the energy balance equation in the
coming decades, regardless of which course humanity chooses.


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