Monthly Archives: December 2006

Oil to Electrons

I would to call your attention to a study which was conducted by the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory which is operated by Battelle for the US Department of Energy.

Please take a look at “Mileage from Megawatts“.

In short, what this study found was that surplus electricity generation and storage capacity if used in plug-in hybrid vehicles, could power 87% of our vehicles. Given that plug-in hybrid technology is something that we can do today this offers a substantial opportunity to reduce our dependency on foreign oil since 73% of our oil demand is caused by gasoline consumption.

In the east and mid-west, 100% of the vehicles could be powered entirely by surplus electrical generation and distribution capacity. Only in the Pacific Northwest is this not the case. However, if we were to add wind generation capacity this could be addressed as well. Unfortunately, the very best lands for wind power generation are presently owned by the federal government and not near transmission facilities, this being the eastern ridge of the Yakima valley which has very constant winds ideal for power generation.

Category: Future

Abiotic Oil

I believe we need to get off of oil as an energy source for environmental reasons so I’m not entirely sure that the oil company promoted peak-oil scenario is entirely a bad thing, but it is a lie.

One could go on and on, there are thousands of articles on this subject, but the bottom line is that Russia has drilled over 300 deep wells, through granite and basalt bedrock caps, and put them into production to overtake Saudi Arabia as the worlds largest oil producer.

In a joint venture with the Chinese, the Russians have drilled twenty deep wells in Viet Nam in an area where there was no sedimentary basin, and thus should not have, according to the fossil fuel theory, been oil there, yet there was. The Chinese are now drilling similar wells in North Korea.

The ramifications for the world economy are good, energy exists to fuel it’s expansion. The ramifications for the environment are bad. Like the climate on Venus? If we continue to burn hydrocarbons as our primary source of energy, that’s what we’re going to have.

I’ve wondered if perhaps those really in control of this planet aren’t aware of this and knowing human traits have created “peak oil” as a means of forcing us towards alternatives because we are just not intelligent enough or forward looking enough to make the transition voluntarily.

If so, there is a problem, the clamp the created energy shortage places on the economy takes away the very resources necessary for the creation of the infrastructure necessary to move away from hydrocarbon fuels.

I believe the answer lies in education, instead of using television to condition people to accept nothing more complex than what can fit in a fifteen second clip, we need to start genuinely educating people, ween them away from oversimplified sensational fifteen second clips and into more in-depth and genuinely useful information.

I believe we should be pursuing many environmentally friendly alternatives simultaneously. Controlled hydrogen fusion should be brought on-line as fast as possible, and I do believe that if we really made a crash effort we could have it in production in 5-10 years.

In the meantime, we should invest heavily in wind, solar, geothermal, ocean current, ocean thermal, and other technology.

I believe that we should biofuels only where the energy product is significantly greater than required to grow, harvest, and process the energy crop, and, where it can be done in a sustainable manner without depleting the soil, and where it does not compete with needed food production, or where we can organic waste products into fuel.

I believe there is a place for a particular type of nuclear fission plant, a fast-flux plant capable of burning actinides, primarily as a means of destroying existing stockpiles of long term high level nuclear waste with energy production as a byproduct, rather than burying that waste and creating a problem for future generations.

One argument against wind power has been that the intermittent nature of this power source limits it to no more than a 15-20% contribution to the grid, but I would suggest otherwise and here is why.

The solution to the intermittent problem is to significantly overbuild capacity and when more energy is generated than can be readily absorbed by the grid, use that excess for fuel production or store it. Fuel production can be hydrogen, or it can be aluminum which can be used in a type of battery in which it is oxidized and electricity is produced, or a number of other potential forms. Storage can be hydrological, that is pump water uphill during power surpluses, release it through a turbine to a lower reservoir during shortages. There is also a type of battery using liquid electrodes and that can be used to store power on a utility scale. Similar strategies can be used for solar power, tidal power, and any other intermittent sources.

The earth will continue to have cycles of heating and cooling with or without our input, but those of nature occur over a longer period of time and nature is adapted to accommodate changes at the slower natural pace.

There is some good news, methane, which is actually a far more powerful greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide, approximately 100 times more powerful, and which accounts for approximately 30% of greenhouse warming even though it constitutes a much smaller percentage of the atmosphere than carbon dioxide is leveling off and no longer rising at a fast pace. It is believed this is because it has reached a state of equilibrium where it is destroyed as fast as it is being put into the atmosphere. This is positive news because it means that one non-trivial component of global warming is not continuing to increase.

The reason we need to bring hydrogen fusion online in spite of the fact that we could accommodate existing needs via renewable sources, is density and economics. Fusion uses deuterium as the primary fuel. Deuterium constitutes one of every 2000 hydrogen atoms in sea water. There is enough of it to provide all of our energy needs for 15 billion years. The only waste product produced is helium. Tritium is also required, but it can be bred in a lithium blanket. A reactor starting on deuterium alone will initially produce little energy but in 48 hours of operation it will breed enough tritium to become a net energy producer.

With controlled hydrogen fusion we can solve many of the worlds problems. Since the fuel is everywhere, no one nation or power will have a lock on this energy source. This is the reason why it is being developed so slowly now, this is not a situation desirable to big oil. The fuel is, for all intents and purposes, free. This makes it practical for energy intensive applications like desalinating water. Many industrial processes which could be used to recycle waste products if it were not for the cost of energy will become viable.

Unlike wind, solar, and other renewable sources which are not energy dense, limited in scalability, and not portable, controlled hydrogen fusion reactors could be build anywhere we want to build them. Need a large amount of energy to transform lunar regolith into water, air, and other raw materials? No problem build a fusion reactor there.

The moon even has a potential fuel, He3, that is more attractive for fusion because all of the products are charged particles allowing reaction energy to be directly converted into electricity without the need for a thermal cycle. Additionally, this means no neutrons (and actually that’s not 100% true, there are some smaller reactions that take place that do generate some neutrons), so there are not the problems with neutron activation and embrittlement present with deuterium-tritium reactions.

Initial fusion reactors will be physically large, but as superconductor technology continues to improve and our understanding of plasma physics and how to best confine plasma continues to evolve, this will gradually reduce there size, and who knows what breakthroughs may emerge.

The most efficient design at this time is a spherical tokamak, this is a design with a short aspect ratio. It has been determined experimentally that a nearly spherical plasma configuration is easier to confine than early tokamaks which where the plasma was a more elliptical torus.

However, there are some new configurations being examined that may have the potential to achieve far higher temperatures and pressures necessary for advanced aneutronic fuel cycles.

Smaller future designs may expand our reach in space, how far we can travel in a reasonable period of time. Maybe we can send a probe to Alpha Centauri and examine it’s planetary system up close.

None of this will be possible if we keep doing what we’re doing, burning hydrocarbons for energy; all this will accomplish is slow suffocation and environmental disasters.

Category: Future

Energy

There isn’t too much that comes out of President Bush’s mouth that I can agree with. But I do agree with him when he says America needs to repair and improve it’s energy infrastructure to remain competitive.

We do need a means to produce the energy we need in a sustainable and ecologically non-destructive manner. In my view, we should have a crash program to bring controlled fusion online as our principal energy resource.

There is enough deuterium in the oceans waters (approximately 1-in-2000 atoms) to provide all of mankind’s energy needs for an estimated fifteen billion years. What’s more it can do it without releasing an atom of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere and without producing any long term high level nuclear waste.

ITER is an international effort to build a burning plasma fusion test reactor capable of sustained operation at commercial power levels. This effort will take ten years to construct and then will operate a projected twenty years. The total cost of construction will be around six billion dollars, and operation over the following twenty years another six billion. Of this, the US total contribution will be around 1.1 billion over the lifespan of the project, about 550 million towards the construction.

To put this in perspective, the United States spends as much in a day on imported oil as we will contribute over a period of ten years towards the construction of this crucial test reactor.

This reactor is the last step before the deployment of commercial fusion reactors. It’s function is to test components and materials at commercial power levels over long periods of time. Present fusion reactors use copper coils to generate the magnetic containment field. Because these coils have resistance, they rapidly heat up limiting power shots to about a minute maximum. The power levels existing reactors operate at are about 5% of the level a commercial reactor would operate at. It is not known how critical components, particularly a device called a diverter that skims off helium waste from the plasma, will hold up to long term bombardment by energetic ions and neutrons. ITER will establish that and allow us to do any material research to make any necessary adjustments.

To take ten years to bring this online and to only spend as much as we do for one days worth of oil imports is insane. It is national, economic, and environmental suicide.

February of 2006, the Chinese started construction of a test reactor which uses superconductive coils and thus will be capable of continuous operation for long periods. September of 2006, this reactor saw first plasma. Why is it possible for the Chinese to do something in seven months that it takes the rest of the world ten years to do? The answer is that the Chinese understand the urgency of providing for their energy needs and the Chinese government isn’t owned by the oil industry.

The United States has become completely unable to compete in the world market for manufactured goods. Initially this was due to low wages, and in the case of goods manufactured in China and India this is still true. In Japan and South Korea where the demand for labor has outstripped supply and wages have risen to higher levels, they have remained competitive through the extensive use of automation and through very effective quality control efforts.

In time, the labor market will saturate in China as well, but if they succeed in bringing controlled fusion online before the rest of the world, they will have a huge economic advantage because of their low energy costs. We need to not be left in the dust on this one. The US space race with the Soviets was largely symbolic, but bringing fusion power online soon is essential to our nations survival. If we do not do this we will simply not have the economic means to compete in any market or to maintain our security.

Presently, the one area that we’ve remained competitive with on the world market is in food production. Rising energy costs and the depletion of natural aquifers faster than nature can replenish them will soon bring an end to our ability to compete even in this area and possibly an end to our ability to feed ourselves.

What has allowed us to compete in the world market for food has been our land, some 46% of American land is arable, contrasted with about 10% of China’s. However, what makes the majority of China’s land unsuitable for food production is the lack of adequate fresh water supplies. Controlled hydrogen fusion will provide the energy they need to desalinate water as necessary and make much of this presently non-arable land arable. Meanwhile, as our aquifers deplete and the cost of energy to run our farm equipment continues to skyrocket, much of our land will cease to be arable, at least from an economic standpoint.

We should be building our own superconducting fusion test reactor and we should be bringing it online rapidly, as China has done, and we should move to commercial deployment as soon as remaining material issues are resolved.

While this is in progress, we should be tapping non-fossil sustainable energy sources here in our country to the fullest extend possible. The western half of the United States has huge geothermal potential. Wind is a resource available almost everywhere in the US. Solar is practical in the southern portion of the country. We need to ramp up deployment of these sources.

There are also fission reactor designs that can burn the actinides and thus produce only short-term fission product waste instead of long lived plutonium and other transuranic wastes. I really believe we need to give these technologies serious consideration. Yucca mountain could be come a reactor farm instead of a waste disposal site, the reactors being used to simultaneously burn actinides instead of trying to store them for ten thousand years and at the same time produce enormous quantities of energy. This is not only the responsible thing to do for our generation, it is also the responsible thing for us to do for future generations.

So how can we get the oil companies hooks out of our government and put these projects into high gear and get our economy rolling again, save our environment, and eliminate a nuclear waste legacy for our children?

Category: Future

Renewable Energy Web Resource

I ran across a pretty good web site dealing with renewable energy, “Renewable Energy Generation“.

It is an extremely comprehensive site covering a broad range of renewable energy related topics but doing so in a manner that is extremely well organized and easy to navigate.

It is organized into the following categories:

  • Actual Cases
    Actual applications of renewable energy technologies.
  • Breakthrough Technology
    New renewable energy technologies.
  • Corporate Environmental Initiatives
    Things corporations are doing to help the environment.
  • E-Waste
    Deals with the topic of what to do with waste streams.
  • Eco-Friendly Publishing
    References to other Eco-Friendly publications.
  • Eco-tourism
    Promotes ecologically friendly travel.
  • Education
    Ecological Education Resources.
  • Environmental Activism
    Things you can do to encourage positive change.
  • Events
    Upcoming ecology related events.
  • Fossil Fuel News
    What’s happening in the non-sustainable energy field.
  • Green Awards
    Awards bestowed by various entities onto various entities for their positive ecological contributions.
  • Introductions
    Introductions to important ecology related concepts.
  • Novelties
    Novel ecology related items.
  • Recycle It
    Recycling information. Resources to put waste producers in touch with entities that can recycle the waste into useful products.
  • Renewable Energy
    Information about renewable energy. The largest and most relevant section.
  • Sustainable Business
    How businesses contribute to a sustainable economy.
  • Uncategorized
    Everything that didn’t fit elsewhere.

This is a brief listing of the categories, but really you need to take a look at the site to get a better feel for it. It really is an interesting site.

Category: Future

Environmental Meetup Group Seattle

I ran across this while searching for something else in Google. In Seattle, there is a meetup group to discuss future sustainability and the environment.

Given the topic of this blog I felt it appropriate to post here. At least people in the Seattle area might want to check this out.

Category: Future

New High Efficiency Solar Cell

Spectrolab, a Boeing subsidiary, have developed a new multi-junction solar cell that has demonstrated an efficiency of 40.7% using concentrated sunlight.

The multi-junction solar cell is similar to space based solar cells used on satellites but is based upon metamorphic semiconductors. These are dissimilar semiconductor materials combined.

In solar cells, efficiency is limited by the ability of a semi-conductor junction to utilize only one wavelength of light efficiently. This is based upon the semi-conductor junctions band gap, an energy barrier that requires a specific amount of energy to cause an electron to jump over.

The shorter the wavelength of light, the more energy each photons pack. A typical mono-crystalline silicon solar cell will have a band gap of around 1.1 volts. This corresponds to a wavelength of around 1200 nm, near infrared, just below visible light.

Any photon with a wavelength longer than this will not be able to cause an electron to jump the energy band gap and produce a current in a solar cell. Any wavelength shorter than this will not be utilized efficiently, only the energy corresponding to 1200 nm, 1.1 electron volts, will be utilized, the rest will be wasted as heat. A conventional mono-junction solar cell can only utilize a narrow slice of the light spectrum efficiently.

A solution to this problem is to create a multi-junction solar cell, a stack of junctions each of which can capture a portion of the spectrum with high efficiency. This is the approach used in the new Spectrolab solar cell. Other companies have produced multi-junction solar cells in the past, but they have been either too chemically unstable or too expensive for terrestrial applications.

The 40.7% efficiency demonstrated by the Spectrolab solar cell is the highest I have seen. The companies press release implies these cells will be suitable for terrestrial applications and lend themselves to high volume manufacturing but they do not address the issues of cost or long term stability, either of which could be show stoppers.

If both of these issues are addressed in this new solar cell, then this will represent a major breakthrough in photovoltiac solar energy and will allow it to find applications that are presently cost prohibitive.

Category: Future

Alternate Energy Sources

Browsing the web looking at developments in energy, particularly renewable sources, I ran across something being utilized in China called DME, which is short for Dimethyl Ether.

It is a water soluble gas that can be used as a substitute for liquefied natural gas, gasoline, or diesel. It can be made from natural gas, coal, or biomass. The first two wouldn’t buy any net gains in terms of the environment, but the last might if it actually yielded more energy than it took to grow the biomass in the first place but I haven’t found any good references.

If anyone has any good sources of information regarding this please do send me a note with that information (just comment to this post).

I felt the need to mention this article, “New Energy Source Wrings Power From Black Home Spin“, published on Science Daily, not because it is a source of energy we could harness, but because the physics of it have me completely confused.

Here’s my conundrum, theory has it that a black hole is an object so dense that it’s gravity is too strong for even light to escape, light being not just visible light but any electro-magnetic radiation.

But this article asserts that a black hole has a magnetic field, and that in spinning, the magnetic field lines spin with it imparting energy to surrounding gas.

Now a couple of things I don’t get about this theory. The first is that magnetic fields are a component of electro-magnetic force, which in turn is light, which isn’t supposed to be able to escape from a black hole, but here we have these magnetic field lines escaping.

The second thing, at least in some black hole theories, matter has collapsed to a point, and if that is the case how is a magnetic field generated?

Wind energy, this is an area that has a lot of promise if morons don’t ruin it. I hear claims of noise pollution, I’ve ridden horses in fields where these giant wind turbines were turning and I could hear nothing from them.

There are people that find them aesthetically unpleasing, I wonder how aesthetically pleasing people find those large nuclear power plant cooling towers, or for that matter how aesthetically pleasing they are going to find radioactive waste? Cancer has to have a lot of aesthetic appeal right?

There are people who are concerned that they kill birds and bats. I am sure bats serve some ecological purpose, especially those that eat insects, but I strongly suspect their population is limited by food supply rather than windmill deaths. The deaths of both birds and bats is unfortunate, but I think it pales compared to the environmental damage done by every alternative presently available to us.

All energy sources available to us today have some environmental consequence. Arguably all energy sources we will ever have will come with environmental consequences. We can not eliminate those consequences entirely, but we can minimize them and that is what we should be doing.

Even if we brought controlled hydrogen fusion online, we would still have thermal pollution (heat) because no source of energy is 100% efficient and neither is the transportation or utilization of that energy, and the waste shows up as heat.

We will always be balancing our needs against environmental risks, and we have to consider that too much damage to the environment will make life miserable to impossible for us.

A clean and unlimited energy source, essentially what controlled hydrogen fusion represents, would allow us to recycle many materials which are not economical to recycle today, correct human induced problems on a large scale, and eliminate pollution caused by producing energy through less clean methods.

Coal for sustainable energy? Are these guys on drugs? This is from the World Coal Institute. Who else would even suggest such an absurd concept? How can something that is limited in supply, extremely damaging to the environment to extract and utilize, be a “sustainable” source of energy?

U.S. Sustainable Energy Corp is an interesting company. Their mission statement says, among other things, ” Produce 100% of it’s energy needs using biofuels derived from soybeans and corn (not biodiesel or ethanol).”, but does not elaborate on exactly how they intend to do that. I would like to know more about this company but their website seems lacking in real information content.

I have mixed feelings about opening up more of the Gulf of Mexico to oil drilling. In the near term we need to meet our energy needs, but I am concerned these efforts will detract from long term efforts to move towards truly sustainable energy sources. In my view, what we should be doing is making an aggressive national effort, on the scale of Apollo or the Manhattan Project, to bring controlled nuclear fusion online as soon as possible. We could do this if we made the national effort. China is making the effort. What is it going to mean for us if they bring this source online and we’re still drilling for oil? I don’t think it will be good.

To be honest, I don’t believe we have any real shortage of fossil fuels, just a shortage contrived and promoted by the oil industry to extract as much money as possible. I’ve elaborated on why I believed this in the past. The Russians, who have long since embraced the abiogenic theory of oil production, have succeeded briefly at becoming the worlds largest oil producer and took a back seat to Saudi Arabia only because of the Russian governments clamp down on Yukos, the second largest Russian oil producer.

Their huge production has been made possible by drilling through granite capstone to find oil pooled under these capstones, biotic theory says no oil should exist there.

What we lack is not hydrocarbons to burn, it’s atmosphere to react with the hydrocarbons. First is the problem of carbon dioxide causing global warming. If we use technologies such as carbon sequestration to stop the build up of carbon dioxide in the air, then we are still depleting the oxygen, and with the carbon dioxide sequestered, plants can’t turn it back into hydrocarbons and oxygen. In case anybody is unaware of this, humans breath oxygen, we require it to live.

A word about the proposed hydrogen economy. Hydrogen is only a source of energy if it’s used in controlled nuclear fusion. The hydrogen economy envisioned by our illustrious leader is only using hydrogen as an energy storage medium. We would need to produce hydrogen either by splitting it off of natural gas, which is cheap but produces carbon dioxide and natural gas is not a renewable resource, or by electrolyzing water which requires some other energy source.

If we were to bring controlled nuclear fusion online, the current candidate technologies for fusing hydrogen, are physically too large and heavy to use in transportation applications such as automobiles, trucks, planes, and even trains. It might be usable in aircraft carrier sized ships. Unless some future technology allows hydrogen to be fused on a smaller scale, we will need some intermediate storage medium in order to utilize this energy for transportation. They hydrogen economy being proposed could be useful in that scenario, but unless a clean primary source of energy is available, it is only adding inefficiency to the fossil fuel consumption and making the energy problem worse not better.

Category: Future

Chinese Fusion Reactor Progress


The new Chinese research tokamak fusion reactor in Heifi produced a plasma towards the end of September. They didn’t elaborate much beyond that so I don’t know how meaningful this is. A neon sign also produces plasma.

I had heard earlier that a test of the superconductive magnets was also a success. In my view that is actually a more substantial development because previous research reactors have used copper wire electromagnets and because of their resistance they rapidly heat up limiting operation to about a minute before they overheat.

A minutes operation doesn’t allow testing critical devices like the diverter which removes helium “ash” from the plasma. Because helium is heavier, it tends to move towards the outside of the plasma where it can be skimmed off by a diverter. The diverter is critical to the long term operation of the reactor, how it will respond to the constant bombardment of very energetic ions needs to be evaluated. That requires operation for longer periods of time. That’s what superconductive magnets can provide. Because they have no electrical resistance, they do not heat up.

There were non-trivial obstacles to overcome. Superconductors, at least high temperature superconductors that can be economically cooled, tend to be made from brittle ceramics not easily formed into wire which can be wound into coils. Superconductors lose their superconductivity when they are subject to a magnetic field exceeding some critical value. The value of magnetic fields required to contain a plasma at the temperatures required for fusion to occur can be in the order of eight to fifteen Teslas, until recently these fields were not achievable with superconductors.

Given the obstacles, I view the successful operation of the superconductive magnets as actually much more significant than the generation of a plasma. However, it is good to know that progress is continuing. Here are a link to the only article I can find (Associated Press article):

An Associated Press article on the Discovery Channel website

Category: Future

Sustainable Future

Energy

We have two major issues and a lot of minor issues when it comes to achieving a sustainable economy. An economy that provides for our needs without destroying our environment requires substantial changes in the way that we provide for our energy and food needs.

Peak Oil is bunk. I’ve stated this before. There are plenty of hydrocarbons present in the earth such that, if we had infinite atmosphere we could burn them for centuries to come to supply our energy needs.

Planets tend to have higher percentages of volatiles the farther away they are from the sun. Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune, primarily hydrogen, helium. As you get farther in planets tend to be made more of heavier elements. The size of the planet is also a factor since lighter planets like Mars don’t have enough gravity to hang on to their volatiles well, particularly hydrogen.

But Earth and Venus, similar planets in many ways. Venus is only about 85% of the earths mass, and consequently has slightly less mass and thus gravity. It is also closer to the sun which means it should have lost more of it’s volatiles. Yet, Venus has an atmosphere 100 times thicker than earth made primarily of carbon dioxide. There were enough hydrocarbons on Venus to create this atmosphere. Earth should, and probably does have even more.

We don’t have infinite atmosphere, that’s the real problem with a fossil fuel energy economy. That and the fact that fossil fuel energy production can only be scaled so far economically and that isn’t far enough to do a lot of the things we could do and need to be able to do.

The limiting factor in terms of deriving energy by burning hydrocarbons is not lack of fuel, it’s lack of atmosphere. We are already seeing the effects on our weather. We can’t afford to continue burning fossil fuels for energy. The oil companies know this and created “Peak Oil” to try to squeeze every penny they can out of their existing investments before a change in our energy source becomes mandatory.

Running out of atmosphere isn’t the only problem with burning fossil fuels for energy. Combustion is inevitably not complete and a lot of very toxic products of partial combustion result. The hydrocarbons fuels have other elements in them also, sulfur, radium, mercury, arsenic, and putting these things into our atmosphere is unhealthy to say the least.

Another problem with fossil fuels is that they can not scale economically as an energy source to levels that would allow us to do things that would provide a good standard of living for all of humanity.

Food Production

The other problem that we have is that our current methods of producing food has been very damaging to the environment. We clear forest to make farm land, then we use poor practices, lack of crop rotation, over watering, that render the land non-productive in a short time, so we cut down or burn down more forest.

We use artificial fertilizers to try to maintain the productivity of the soil, then we over water and wash all of those nutrients into rivers which ultimately flow out into the ocean, causing huge algae blooms near the surface cutting off sunlight from reaching deeper levels, resulting in oxygen depletion deeper and killing every living thing. Huge plumes of dead zones now radiate from major river deltas.

We shoot our livestock full of hormones and antibiotics. The antibiotics enter the environment and cause resistant bacteria to develop so that we can no longer efficiently combat human bacterial infections. The hormones are affecting other life forms, causing feminization of fish threatening some species.

We use pesticides that cause harm to many other lifeforms beyond the insects they were meant to control.

In addition to fertilizers being washed into the rivers, animal manure also is entering the water and adding to the pollution problems.

These are the two major issues. We have many other issues that are also of a large scope.

Water

We are depleting aquifers faster than they can be replenished by nature. The CO2 we are putting into the atmosphere is changing the rain, snow, and snow melt patterns creating further problems. Inefficient and wasteful watering practices are large consumers of water. If we had unlimited energy, this wouldn’t be a problem, because we could desalinate as much water as we need. But we presently do not have unlimited energy at our disposal.

We could make much more efficient use of the water we have however. Switch farming to drip irrigation, this would also reduce the need for fertilizers because it is over watering that is leaching minerals from the soil and drip irrigation prevents that mineral loss.

Waste

Waste of various sorts is a problem, house hold garbage, industrial chemicals, nuclear waste, what do we do with it? Virtually every element in our waste stream could find a use, but we find it less expensive to mine and extract new materials rather than re-use the old. Energy is a part of this equation also, adequate economical energy would enable us to recycle many things we presently can’t because it is not economically feasible.

Genetic Degredation

Modern Technology has allowed many people with serious genetic defects to live and reproduce that otherwise would not have. For the victims of these genetic problems this is great, but the result is that defective genes are becoming more prominent in the gene pool. I don’t know how we can fix this in a humane manner, at least not with the technology we have now. Perhaps some day we will have the technology to manipulate DNA at will and can just fix these defects, but at present this is an issue.

The Biggest Problem

The biggest problem however isn’t any of these, it’s our inability to get along with one another and cooperate to achieve the greatest good. I truly believe all of the material problems are ultimately addressable, if we could cooperate towards that ends, it is our inability to cooperate with each other that causes me the most concern.

Category: Future