Our Electric Future — The American, A Magazine of Ideas

I came across this fascinating article after stumbling over Matt Mullenweg‘s blog.

If you don’t know who Matt Mullenweg is (I didn’t), here’s what it says on his about page…

I am the founding developer of WordPress, the blogging software that runs much of this site and thousands of other sites around the world.

This has a nice geeky reciprocal feel to it. Writing stuff in WordPress about the guy who, wrote WordPress…

Anyway, back to Andy Grove’s thesis on the energy supply and climate change agenda.

It’s a bit OT for me I know but I really learned quite a bit from it. And as a concerned member of the human race anything that helps me to understand more about the problems we face and are continuing to make for ourselves is fine by me.

Several bits really surprised me:

  • The dramatic graph showing China’s growth and energy consumption;
  • The discussion on why energy independence is a flawed objective;
  • The idea of “sticky” energy types;
  • Converting stupid SUVs (4x4s) to dual fuel could halve the USA’s petroleum imports

The whole thing was well written and thought provoking.

I felt there were a couple of areas that didn’t get coverage so I’ll mention them here.

Electricity itself is a good clean energy medium and relatively easy (and very quick!) to distribute. A big issue however is with transmission losses and the wasted energy over long distances. The other problem with electricity is storage. There are plans and ideas circulating around something called micro-generation. Basically, enable every home, office, shop or other “consumer” to also generate power through renewable methods (solar, wind, tide or whatever else works) and feed that back into the grid. Power is then available in a far more dynamic fashion and is produced at a more local level, reducing losses and increasing efficiency.

This isn’t something that will happen over night. But it is an important part of a more “joined up” approach to solving our energy crisis

Secondly, Andy failed to discuss Hydrogen. This could be a massive contributor to the whole energy and climate change problem. There are issues with Hydrogen certainly, although I doubt these would be insurmountable if we put our best brains on them. And I have heard that there is a country already gearing itself up to become the world’s Hydrogen manufacturer; they can produce it at very low cost to the environment. That place is Iceland.

Of course the final issue is we have to get the petroleum and automotive manufacturers to stop sitting on their pile of IP and patents and actually use them to develop better technology – but where’s the incentive to do that right now? Oil prices at an all time high and GM and Ford struggling for survival…

Hey ho.


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