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World Futures Institute: Energy – Part One

Many columns ago a list of 18 areas was identified affecting the future of humanity and the earth. Among the sublevels identified were energy storage (especially long term), energy conversion, energy system efficiency and energy distribution. As human beings we use energy.
At the simplest of levels we use the energy contained in food to operate ourselves. The food energy comes from plants and other animals also fueled by plants. And the plant energy is created, for the most part, from solar energy that drives chemical actions.
Besides plant energy, the solar energy has caused different chemical reactions resulting in stored energy in other deposits in the earth. Okay, it may have been created by the explosions that formed the planets but I was not here then to observe.
I do not fully understand the formulation of the earth and the accumulation of this stored energy, but I do know that it took a long time, is finite in amount, and is being consumed at a rapid pace because of the evolution of humanity.
And finally, there is nuclear energy, the stuff that holds atoms together. In simple terms, split an atom apart and energy is released – fission.
Or, force two atoms together and energy is released as a new, stable atom is formed – fusion. This is happening in the sun, but on earth energy from fusion is limited.
As humanity evolved, energy consumption grew because of both population growth and changes in how people exist. Consider the home and energy use. While not inclusive of everybody, in the home or a temporary home while camping, lighting is essential after the sun sets.
You could argue that you could manage in the dark, all you need is a candle. But this is energy.
Think about all the CO2 that would be released if 6 billion plus candles were burned on average 12 hours a day.
Plus you need to cook, and that takes energy, too. You use an appliance, or perhaps a barbecue, to provide the heat that comes from an energy source. In a similar manner you have other appliances such as refrigerators, freezers, vacuum cleaners, washers, dryers, television sets, computers and, do not forget, smart phones. It quickly becomes complicated.
The smart phone needs to be charged from an electricity source with some level of efficiency. How about heating, air conditioning, and swamp coolers?
Do we really need these inefficient systems of energy consumption? Most of us would say yes, it is all about a “livable” environment.
The United States has an area of 3.8 million square miles and a population of 330 million people giving a population density of approximately 87 people per square mile if uniformly distributed.
As we have evolved, however, we have created population clusters called towns, cities, counties, states and so forth. We need to move both within and between these clusters. In the “olden” days the energy used for this movement was consumed by humans, animals, and wind driven devices like ships and sailboats.
Today, at the personal level, people just go somewhere in planes, trains, and automobiles. In 1987, Steve Martin and John Candy starred in the movie Planes, Trains, and Automobiles in which transportation was viewed as trivial, much like it is today even though its loss caused a troubled situation.
Do you plan and adjust your commute to work based on energy consumption, time consumption, or the cost involved? Most likely, time and cost are the dominant issues.

Another aspect of transportation includes the movement of food and things, including energy. Usually when we think of this movement of stuff, we measure in pounds or kilograms unless it is pure energy such as electricity.

In this case we need a power grid as the highway for electricity and must remember that some of the electrical energy is lost because the transportation takes energy.
Then there is making stuff and finding the raw materials or parts. Perhaps it is harvesting crops and movement to food plants and stores, sorting and packaging along the way.
Or perhaps it is making an automobile including gathering and processing the needed raw materials as well as assembly before shipment to the customer in a distant cluster. This may be similar to the manufacturing and distribution of solar cells, also consuming energy that comes from somewhere.

We started with individuals consuming food for energy, individuals that must belong to a societal organization, suggesting the need for hospitals, schools, government buildings, and water and sanitation.

In the commercial sector we have stores, hotels, and office buildings as well as the need for street lighting for safety or just having a good time (Las Vegas, Nev.?).
All of these things require energy consumed by the rich and the poor, close together and widely distributed.
Stuff must be made, collected and distributed over 3.8 million square miles in the U.S. as well as over the rest of the world. And most energy used to do this comes from a finite supply of fossil and nuclear fuels.
There are arguments today that we need to convert to “renewable” energy from the sun and engage in short term storage. Assuming you are a champion of this transformation, can you afford it? What are you, personally, willing to sacrifice?
Til next time….
Los Almos Daily Post

2 Comments on "World Futures Institute: Energy – Part One"

  1. stagehand8 on Mon, 19th Aug 2019 5:15 pm 

    What are you, personally, willing to sacrifice?
    The ultimate question.

  2. Cloggie on Tue, 20th Aug 2019 12:53 am 

    Largest parking lot in the world opened in Utrecht, Netherlands… for bikes, 12.500, including automatic guidance system. No fumes.

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