Thursday :: Oct 16, 2008

Amps & Ohms Forever


by paradox

Quick: what is the most abundantly utilized physical element in our biological and human worlds that has the absurdly easy potential to stop global warming, greatly facilitate world peace, employ our people by the tens of millions and may even be the primary driver to real global resource management?

Electricity, of course. Finally, at last, energy and the environment are front and center on a Presidential policy election agenda, but as Jeffrey Leonard of the Washington Monthly stressed recently America--home to the total electron demi-gods Franklin and Tesla—is still ridiculously tethered to the internal combustion disaster of those Germans, Otto and Diesel.

Americans are going to have to get used to the idea that internal combustion is a joke: after one drills for oil, pumps it, ships it, pipelines it, refines it, pipelines it some more, trucks it and pumps it one last time burning it in an internal combustion engine wastes 70% of it. That’s right, no matter how efficient our standard piston engines can be they’re never above 30% potential energy capture from gasoline. Then they deliver that lovely global warming payoff, it’s just time to junk the whole fossil fuel piston-driven human era. Now.

All right, we need to scrap our liquid fuel distribution system, what do we replace it with? Well, nothing, the replacement is already right there in our electricity grid and wall outlets, pretty cheap, I’d say. But wouldn’t electric cars use electricity burned from fossil fuels?

Initially, yes, but even in that worst case scenario energy utilization climbs to 60% because electric motors are so much vastly more efficient than that junk from Otto and Diesel. It’s a worst case scenario because brilliant, golden, life-saving electricity (our brains run on it, why not our cars?) can be completely renewable with zero harm to the environment, just capture it off the roof—all the roofs--and feed it back into the grid.

Taken to its total end this road still leaves about a 15% generation capacity hole, especially at night or when the wind doesn’t blow, so a small nuclear backbone could anchor the grid at night. Given the choice of frying the planet or a 15% nuclear generation rate we have to take it, I can certainly live with it.

Watching the debates last night it occurred to me how weary I am of all this yap, not only from the election but in my own life, I’m sick to death of contributing to global warming every time I go to work or the grocery store. I’m anxious to replace my roof, install solar panels over 80% of it, plug in my car and be in the goods with Al Gore, damn right, off to work I go with zero fossil fuel emissions utilizing electrons from my own house. That’s a fine way to live, never meant to be a dream in the least, and I’m sick of talking about it, let’s do it, Jesus.

That is our future, of that there is no doubt, and the sooner we embrace it the better. Of course it would help if I got a tax credit for the panels installed by a subsidized small business, government also seriously researching better battery and transmission technology, but we shall have to see. Without a tax break and subsidy solar panels will have to wait at least 2 years for my little house. That’s when the Chevy Volt is due, too, Chevrolet swears they can spit out a plug-in in 24 months, if they really do it I’m buying one instantly.

It gets interesting when one starts to think about an entire North American continent with emissions from nothing but aircraft fuel. If the planet still continues to warm because significant chunks of the race can’t or won’t convert to electricity, what then? The Global Commons of the atmosphere will be with us, and although I’m sure I won’t live to see the day of a form of global government to save the atmosphere I can definitely envision such a scenario. Worse things could befall the human race, yes.

In the meantime I shall keep dreaming of my electric car and solar panels. Soon, hopefully very soon, I can stop talking about it and finally do it.

paradox :: 8:00 AM :: Comments (13) :: Digg It!