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Storytelling our energy future

Chris Nelder, Smart Planet
I want to tell you two stories.

The first is this: You were born into an exceptional culture of enormous wealth. If you work hard and take advantage of the inherent genius and innovativeness of that culture, you can become wealthy, secure, happy, and comfortable. And if they work hard, your children can have even more wealth than you did.

Here’s the second: Right now, you are living at the absolute historical peak of human wealth. In terms of the energy you consume, the variety of foods and beverages available to you, and the amount of physical labor you don’t have to do every day, you are vastly more wealthy than any generation before you. Your children will be much poorer than you, will have far fewer options about what they can eat and drink and do with their free time, and will have to do a lot more physical labor. Their children will have even harder lives, and so on into the future, as wealth per capita declines for the next several hundred years.

Now: Which story do you think is more true?

Then: Why do you think it’s true?

And finally: When you thought about which was more true, what thought process did you go through?…
(30 May 2012)

The Peak Oil Crisis: The Edisonian Approach

Tom Whipple, Falls Church News-Press
While waiting to see if Greece leaves the Eurozone, Spain collapses, and the Iranians can get their act together, it is a good time to discuss some of the recent developments on the Low Energy Nuclear Reactions (LENR) front. There is still no definitive word on whether commercial scale production of cheap and clean energy will be available in time to save us from unaffordable fossil fuels, global warming, economic collapse and whatever else seems destined to make life on earth rather uncomfortable, but claims of progress and circumstantial evidence that the phenomenon is for real continues to build…

Last week a document was posted on the Internet by Dennis Bushnell, the Chief Scientist at NASA’s Langley Research Center entitled “Low Energy Nuclear Reactions, the Realism, and the Outlook.” At the same time, a video was released revealing that among other developments NASA has a contract underway for a very preliminary design of an LENR powered space plane that can take off from a runway, power itself into space, and perhaps one day even fly to the stars. From NASA’s point of view this is the meaning of an energy source with millions of times the energy density than is available from combustion of various fuels. In the meantime, NASA is funding efforts to develop a less ambitious device that will provide the electric power for its spacecraft when they go beyond solar energy from the sun.

The most interesting aspect of Bushnell’s post on NASA’s web site is that it has received almost no attention outside of a small band following LENR developments. The post says flat out that the nuclear physicists were correct 20 years ago when they concluded that what was being called “cold fusion” simply could not happen in the conventional sense of the term. What the physicists missed at the time, and many still do, was that the anomalous heat that was being reported was not coming from some miraculous overcoming of the coulomb barrier in defiance of the laws of physics, but from a heretofore unknown reaction at the atomic scale that did not require large amounts of energy to initiate…
(30 May 2012)

Efficiency and Conservation Not Enough to Achieve Energy Security

David Kerner and Scott Thomas, National Defense Magazine
The Defense Department currently deals with changing energy circumstances by reducing demand through efficiency and conservation, and by attempting to improve supplies.

While this approach may optimize the use of those resources, it overlooks the many other energy-related challenges that the military must cope with and still accomplish the mission. The current strategy leaves the U.S. military highly vulnerable to supply challenges that are beyond its control.

The fault lies, perhaps, in the department’s definition of energy security: “Having assured access to reliable supplies of energy and the ability to protect and deliver sufficient energy to meet operational needs.”

For war fighting, the Defense Department pursues this through a small set of operational energy goals: Ensuring the availability of resources, pursuing efficiency measures and implementing conservation programs. But while these key elements provide the operational energy strategy with critical pillars, they are insufficient, simply because the government cannot always guarantee access to reliable supplies of energy.

The current goals neglect to address how the mission still gets accomplished without enough energy resources. And the same concern applies to defense installations…
(June 2012)