Thursday, 8 October 2009

SHOULD WE AIM FOR THE STARS?

Someone once said that " a man may be lying in the gutter, but he is looking at the stars." (or may be something similar, I can't quite remember it).

Here is a fascinating website for those who like to speculate on the future of mankind. It looks at the vast energy required for long distance space travel, and although today it looks unattainable, it is no more so than a rocket would have been to our ancestors 300 years ago when the steam engine was invented. The point is that the green activists who constantly carp on about reducing our energy use would slow technological progress which depends on increasing available energy. They are pessimists. Progress depends on optimists.

2 comments:

Tim Auld said...

"We might speculate that the main restraint on fossil energy use over the coming half-century might come, not from exhaustion of reserves, but rather from environmental legislation"

Reserves and production rate are two different beasts, and reserves published by many countries are not independently audited and suffer political influence. Production has not increased materially since 2005 and the volatility in energy markets has led to a dearth of investment in discovery. Demand may have peaked along with supply as modern economies collapse - industries shutdown, jobs are lost, lifestyles are simplified. The result of depleting real wealth the recent mismatch with inflated paper money. Consider the dramatic decline of the Cantarell field in Mexico [1]. Soon Mexico will be unable to supply the US with oil even if the US could afford to buy it. Collapsing economies are not good places to run complex business that depend on long term markets and stability, such as energy production and distribution. It's entirely likely that a large proportion of reserves will never be recovered [2]. None of this can be blamed on green activists.

Much of the energy we use is necessary for maintenance of existing infrastructure and living. Growth in economies requires additional energy. The corollary is that without growing supplies of energy, economic growth (and to an extent, technical progress) is limited. Building any infrastructure, for example, to harvest a significant proportion of one Earthpower, will require a huge subsidy from somewhere. What are you personally willing to sacrifice to send a spaceship to the stars? Unfortunately wishful thinking doesn't power anything.

[1] http://peakopps.blogspot.com/2009/09/cantarell-update-september-2009-peak.html
[2]
http://cluborlov.blogspot.com/2009/06/slope-of-dysfunction.html

Derek Tipp said...

I personally am not willing to sacrifice anything, but I am an optimist and I believe that through research and development man will discover new ways of releasing energy. The scare over global warming could be extremely damaging if it reduces the supply of economic energy for people and industry. The website in the link makes some fascinating points.