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si-blog: Repowering energy

si-blog

Repowering energy

Posted Jun 15, 2010 in Politics, Science, Technology.

The explosion and subsequent oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico has reminded everyone of how fucking awful oil-based energy solutions are. Oil is rich in energy that can be unlocked and exploited reasonably efficiently, so it has basically driven the world economy for many decades. But oil is also a finite resource that has provoked wars and economic crises on countless occasions. It also carries a significant negative environmental impact.

Humanity must transition from using oil-based energy to one that revolves around electricity. In order to do that, investments must be made in technology to improve the way electricity is generated, stored and transferred. Governments must stimulate the private sector to invent better battery technologies, while investing in intelligent grid infrastructure and clean generation.

Many governments have claimed that natural gas, ethanol and so-called “clean coal” are the solution to the oil problem, but this is complete nonsense. Like oil, natural gas and coal are finite resources with a terrible environmental impact. Ethanol is created by basically turning what would normally be food into a fuel that can be burned, with the same environmental drawbacks as any other fuel that relies on combustion to release its energy. These resources can and should be used, but only as an interim solution while the world awaits the development of a cleaner approach. Nuclear energy has a different set of problems associated with it, but it too can be used while better technology is being developed.

There are several clean approaches that can be used to generate electricity. The world already makes use of hydroelectric technologies to generate electricity from the flow of water, largely without a negative environmental impact. These can be expanded to include the exploitation of the currents and waves of rivers and oceans. Some countries can generate electricity from geothermal vents. Solar and wind technologies will probably be responsible for the bulk of energy needs in the near future. Sunshine and wind are limitless resources that are always available and can be easily exploited if solar and wind farms are situated in the right places. In the distant future, fusion-based technology may be employed to generate electricity that will be able to use the same grid infrastructure.

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