If you think there is no problem with CO2 and global warming, then do carry on. Otherwise, how to deal with that and get enough energy at the same time?
After much meandering about other sources of energy that won't solve the problem (which admittedly is highly interesting) he gets down to business:
Willie Sutton was a famous bank robber, and when they finally caught him someone asked, “Why do you rob banks, Mr. Sutton?” He said, “Because that’s where the money is.” I believe in that, too.Solar is the only way to go. In fact, a very, very small area of the Earth's surface is needed to generate all the energy we need:
One hundred twenty thousand terawatts of solar power hits the earth, so Willie Sutton would say go to the sun because that’s where the energy is. It is the only natural energy resource that can keep up with human consumption. Everything else will run up against the stops, soon. In fact, more solar energy hits the earth in one hour than all the energy the world consumes in a year.
Top: The nation’s entire energy needs could be met by tiling a 400 × 400 kilometer parcel of land in the sunny Midwest with solar panels.
Bottom: Six such squares, appropriately sited, could power the world.
Sounds promising, no? Problem is that electricity is difficult to store.
I believe that the best way to store massive quantities of electricity is to convert it into chemical fuel. Th e best technology for that purpose that we have now uses a solar thermal system that collects and concentrates solar energy to electrolyze water. You get H2 for fuel, which you can distribute through pipelines and store in tanks. And then you can pump it out of the tank whenever you like and run it through a fuel cell, which converts it back into electricity and water. The problem is, the existing technology is not scalable. The setup in the photo above makes about a kilogram of hydrogen—the energy equivalent of about a gallon of gasoline—every day. And we would have to build one of these every second, for 50 straight years, just to hold the CO2 concentrations to 550 ppmv. We need to find a better way to make fuel from sunlight directly so that we can bring energy to whoever wants it whenever they want it—day or night, summer or winter. My lab and other labs at Caltech are working on that, too.Sigh. No respite. Give up? Here's his word on that:
I haven’t talked much about economics, but I will say that it’s easy to prove, thinking 100 years out, on a risk-adjusted net-present-value basis, that the earth is simply not worth saving. It’s a fully depreciated, four-billion-year-old asset. Unless you have policy incentives that refl ect the true cost of doing this experiment, the economically efficient thing to do is just what we are doing now. On the other hand, with the appropriate policy incentives, the financial opportunities are commensurate with 50 Exxon Mobils on the supply side, and, in devising ways to lower our energy consumption from triple to double by 2050, 50 more Exxon Mobils on the demand side. Th is is both the challenge and the opportunity."The Earth is simply not worth saving." So much for risk-adjusted net-present-value calculations.
&nbs; &nbs; &nbs; &nbs; &nbs; &nbs; I leave it to you to decide whether this is something that we cannot afford to do, or something at which we simply cannot afford to fail. Remember, we get to do this experiment exactly once. And that time, like it or not, is now.