Thursday, August 7, 2008

Centrality of Energy

There are two tendencies I've noticed in the popular press when it comes to energy. The first is to always focus on driving automobiles and gasoline prices (at least when they are not compulsing over something like pollution caused by crude oil spills or radioactive waste storage), and the second is to frame the issue as if there is some all encompassing one great solution.
One size fits all solutions abound whether it is alternative energy, conservation, the hydrogen economy, nuclear power ... everyone has their favorite. But at the core of the issue is the fact that modern societies require vast amounts of energy. Is that sustainable?
The short answer to that is only if it depends on something that is available in large quantities and will last forever. So the answer is no.
What's the next best thing? Probably an appeal to common sense and the use of many different energy sources where they work. Solar, wind, tidal, hydroelectric, nuclear, coal liquefaction, shale oil, ... but probably not using things like corn (better used to feed people and animals). What's missing in the dialogue is a little breadth. One solution is not going to work, but there are many smaller solutions that certainly can.

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