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I love a sun-powered country, A land of deepening mines, of ragged nuclear plants, of biomass and hydropower
November 9, 2012 10:36 PM   Subscribe

While developed countries are pondering whether they should sign up to The Kyoto 2 Protocol and cut greenhouse gas emissions by 5% by 2020, based on 2000 levels which may be of questionable impact, the tiny Pacific territory of Tokelau has ditched its primary source of electricity generation, costly diesel imports, in favour of 100% renewable solar power, becoming the first nation in the world to do so, at a time when the global energy systems of the 21C are struggling towards decarbonisation.

Fiji, Tonga, Cook Islands, Niue, Tuvalu and several other Pacific Nations plan to achieve 100% electricity generation from renewable energy between by 2020.

Energy sourcing, supply and security are vexing issues for most nations, especially against the backdrop of climate change. This week Australia's Government issued an Energy White Paper that acknowledged the need to shift to clean energy sources, (but that some say underestimates solar.)

China issued its own White Paper in October discussing developing hydropower, solar power and wind power generation, nuclear power, biomass and other types of renewable energy.

In Europe, economic powerhouse Germany is exported more electricity this year than ever before, despite beginning to phase out nuclear power.

While Germany is getting out of nuclear, India is seeking new sources of uranium (from Canada and Australia) to solve its power woes (previously) despite reports India's nuclear regulations are not up to scratch.

Japan is understandably nervous about relying on nuclear power into the future, and it is assessing greater gas-fired power from LNG imports, and geothermal for some added energy security.

What the US election means for North America's energy output is unknown. The CEO of one coal company just decided to lay off 150+ workers on the news of Obama's re-election , fearing change and the "coal war" which aims to reduce coal-fired power in the US, while others feel "dirty" energy interests will keep renewables on the sidelines. Wind and solar companies feel good about the result.

In other news, four teenage girls from Africa claim to have invented a urine-powered generator that will provide six hours of power from one litre of liquids (via The Guardian).
posted by Mezentian (60 comments total) 20 users marked this as a favorite

 
Fascinating. Sooner or later there will be a viable alternate energy system.
posted by Cranberry at 11:41 PM on November 9, 2012


It should be mentioned that Tokelau will meet all of its energy needs fairly soon, without any effort at all, simply by being underwater.
posted by twoleftfeet at 11:53 PM on November 9, 2012 [4 favorites]


Meanwhile - Australia has released its while paper - and burn baby burn - Coal that is. Odd for a government that's just risked electoral oblivion over the introduction of am emissions trading scheme.
posted by the noob at 12:03 AM on November 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


Too bad those islands only emit but a tiny fraction of the earth's overall pollution. Still, it's a start.
posted by double block and bleed at 12:14 AM on November 10, 2012


Coal in Australia is primarily an export industry (IIRC it's a top two export with iron ore). We ship more of it out than we do burn domestically (I know in WA and Qld about half power is gas, and in Qld's case that is a rapid change over the past 10 years because the Labor Government under Beatty mandated that gas-fired power be 30% of power generation.

Locally, we could do a hell of a lot to reduce emissions by getting Victoria to shut down its brown coal-fired power stations at Loy Yang and Hazelwood, but no government has the ticker to do that, in part because it risks coal jobs and it would be exposed to billions in compensation claims from TRUenergy et al for the investments and future income they will lose.

We have a big structural issue. Solar panels are so popular these days that now energy generators are complaining that they aren't making the profits they once were (which wouldn't matter so much if they were still state-owned), and that as people are playing less they are playing less to the upkeep of the grid, which means people without solar may soon have to pay more as a result.

Of course, who can't afford solar? Poorer folk. And this in an environment where power prices are rising, and there is no hope of them ending. And also something about smart meters that I don't understand, and gold-plated infrastructure, and deregulation and privatisation and.... stuff.

Energy policy makes my head hurt.
posted by Mezentian at 12:23 AM on November 10, 2012 [3 favorites]


“...four teenage girls form Africa claim to have invented urine-powered generator...”

Well, I really don’t have much knowledge of this subject, I've never studied physics or chemistry... but common sense tells me that something's wrong.
If you are using electricity to create hydrogen to create electricity... it seems you are losing energy.
what's the benefit? It’s a neat trick to say you can turn urine into electricity but you need electricity to begin with and
you are not using the oxygen... I put my self at the mercy of those more educated than I.
posted by quazichimp at 2:02 AM on November 10, 2012


I've been reliably informed by right-wing pundits that non-carbon energy doesn't work, so I must of course insist that none of the events in this FPP happened.
posted by Pope Guilty at 2:09 AM on November 10, 2012


The eternal problem of governance is that the most effective and efficient policies often require the most drastic reallocations of power and resources. The more that is to be improved, the more that must change. The faster something is to be done, the more unpleasant the compromises. Laws and sausages...

Regarding Germany, it will be quite tricky assessing the impacts of their nuclear phaseouts -- really depends on their legislation in the next few years. Also, exports don't tell us much in themselves; the nuclear base is hardly exported, and macroeconomic factors (changes in demand) play huge roles. The EU is quite interconnected, so effects ripple elsewhere. For instance, perhaps they will try to fill in 30% of generation with renewables. And suppose they choose not to accommodate the corresponding variance and lean more heavily on international trading. This is an easy way out, and perhaps Poland -- with its 90+% coal generation -- will fill absorb the peaks and valleys with black clouds. Hopefully the cap-and-trade regulations and seams pricing will be improved, as this would help mitigate the aforementioned hypothetical.
posted by helot at 2:21 AM on November 10, 2012


And the New South Wales state government iin Australia is cutting the funding sources for the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) because they say the EDO is supporting groups opoosed to coal mining and CSG.

Oh man. The folk in the pockets of carbon pollution now have less places to hide and they don't like it.

Nice post, Mezentian.
posted by the fish at 2:47 AM on November 10, 2012


I was curious about the urine-electricity thing myself, and wouldn't have included it if not for the Guardian link. My vague understanding of cracking hydrocarbons and electrolytic cells suggests it's not completely improbable. Some Googling this week didn't find any obvious answers, but I checked it in the link as, well, someone here will be able to disprove it, and it's cool if true.

And the New South Wales state government iin Australia is cutting the funding sources for the Environmental Defenders Office (EDO) because they say the EDO is supporting groups opoosed to coal mining and CSG.

I'm totally shocked.
No, wait.... I'm not. It's a bit like all but one of the WA EPA board having to recuse themselves from making a decision on the Browse LNG environmental conditions because they all had links with the Browse partners, leaving it up to the chair, who presumably wants a nice cushy job with BHP or Woodside or Chevron someday.
posted by Mezentian at 3:18 AM on November 10, 2012


The PDF linked from the urine article is interesting. It looks like the main factor is that hydrogen can be produced from urine with 30% less energy input than from pure water.

Hydrogen is important, not necessarily because it produces a net energy output (from the electrolysis process), but because it's storable and transportable: i.e. you can fill your hovver car up with it at the refuelling zepplin, and it powers the fuel cells -- rather than sitting with it plugged into a socket for a couple of hours to charge batteries before you can go any further.
posted by titus-g at 3:30 AM on November 10, 2012


I knew it would not take long for some smart guy find the answer,,,thanks!
...30 percent less energy to produce hydrogen from urine than from water.
...That is very interesting. But I must say I am still skeptical of the energy trade off.
...oxygen is also a result of electrolysis and it is being wasted.
posted by quazichimp at 3:58 AM on November 10, 2012


Not that Hydrogen is particularly efficient anyway: Does a Hydrogen Economy Make Sense?

A rough napkin calculation suggests that that 30% efficiency gain would mean you would ultimately get 25kWh at the 'wheels' from an input of 100kWh, rather than the 23kWh from water electrolysis (using compression not liquefaction - all transport, etc. figures from the PDF linked). But incremental gains are still gains, and there's certainly uses that H is better suited to than other solutions.
posted by titus-g at 4:00 AM on November 10, 2012


Oxygen has its uses
posted by titus-g at 4:03 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Fascinating. Sooner or later there will be a viable alternate energy system.

Stop underpricing fossil fuels and Nuclear fission.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:39 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does a Hydrogen Economy Make Sense?

No.

A hydrogen economy is a gigantic energy waste. We cannot afford this in the future. (appeal to authority argument - from Lucerne, Switzerland is Dr. Ulf Bossel who is the organizer of the European Fuel Cell Forum in Lucerne, which for me at least is one of the conferences to go to, although Switzerland's Big Macs are a little more expensive than they are in Canada. Ulf has been around fuel cells and renewable energy for a long time now, but Ulf, I think, one of your best credentials is that your great, great grandfather back in the 1830s, Christian Friedrich Schoenbein, was the first to figure out how fuel cells work. )

I look forward to the pro Hydrogen fuel cell folks to show how Dr. Bossel is wrong.
posted by rough ashlar at 4:48 AM on November 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


Stay wild sustainable, Tokelau!
posted by acb at 4:52 AM on November 10, 2012


I don't want to, and can't, argue with Dr. Ulf Bossel.

But I will argue with this:
Ulf, I think, one of your best credentials is that your great, great grandfather back in the 1830s, Christian Friedrich Schoenbein, was the first to figure out how fuel cells work.

My grandfather went to WW2. I am not a soldier.

I will also mention that smarter people than me have told me they are working to have Hydrogen happen, and it is possible.. In 50 years or so. I assume because they need to monetise it. But they worked for Big Big Oil.
posted by Mezentian at 4:54 AM on November 10, 2012


Have a grandfather that figured out fuel cells means absolutely nothing. Energy policy should not be founded upon logical fallacies.
posted by blue_beetle at 5:24 AM on November 10, 2012


I feel this story is indicative of the kind of drastic lifestyle changes that will be required as we seek to curb climate change. It won't be "You need to get an extra mpg in your SUV" it'll be "You need to get rid of your car."
posted by nowhere man at 6:18 AM on November 10, 2012


I feel this story is indicative of the kind of drastic lifestyle changes that will be required as we seek to curb climate change. It won't be "You need to get an extra mpg in your SUV" it'll be "You need to get rid of your car."

well yeah okay that is probably fun for people who hate this decadent, degenerate age and wish to enter a new era of austerity and morals

isn't the reason we aren't using people as slaves now because there are cheaper forms of energy, though

thinking about "having a car" as "freedom to just get up and leave whatever bad situation you're in": what is the connection between cheap energy and e.g. human rights? what were things like back when energy wasn't as cheap and does that really sound fun to you? what are, say, gender roles like in Tokelau?
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 7:12 AM on November 10, 2012 [2 favorites]


And a comment from the previous thread still stands out for me: "if you stop burning oil, someone else will gladly burn it for you".
posted by Mei's lost sandal at 7:12 AM on November 10, 2012


The deal with hydrogen is that it is a potential storage mechanism to iron out some of the production/demand volatility you get with using large scale intermittent electricity sources. The problem with hydrogen is that the process is only about 50% efficient (ie after electrolysis, compression, transport, reconversion you lose half the energy). Other storage technologies are around 70-80% efficient, for example, fly wheels, compressed air, pumped storage etc. If there is any chance to move to hydrogen as a significiant element of the economy then we are going to need the efficiency to improve. The problem is that since electrolysis is a fairly mature technology (as we have been using it to produce hydrogen industrially for a while) then there is little expectation of the efficiency improving. If someone can come up with a way to produce hydrogen more easily (urine or whatever) then it would go a long way to improving hydrogen's potential.
posted by biffa at 7:56 AM on November 10, 2012


Peak Oil, Global Warming, and Business (via the Drumbeat for 11/10)

Good FPP. I'm thinking it's going to take some dynamic discussion to get everyone on board with renewable energy and sustainable consumption of everything.

Additionally, just to comment on the pull quote "if you stop burning oil, someone else will gladly burn it for you": had a run in this summer with a rather chummy fellow who questioned why don't I just drive when I told him I biked. I could tell he didn't lay a thought as to why, but that's OK. There are a lot of people like him, and we have some work to do to get them on the right side of things.

Two things can bite me and my potential children in the ass going into the next century, either single-handedly or simultaneously:

a.) Climate Change/Rapid warming/Rapid cooling
b.) Limited, non-renewable energy supply (and to hell with the idea that there's plenty of oil, it disappears quick with 7 billion potential customers)

We should, in my opinion, leverage both of these in making change, in the context of people concerned about their and their families' futures.

One thing that does give me hope is the vast number of options we're creating for ourselves as far as alternatives are concerned, from those above, to something like a startup trying to produce enough gas from wood chips (though that has its own clear caveats). But we'll see where they carry us.

That's all from me.
posted by JoeXIII007 at 8:25 AM on November 10, 2012


Tokelau has ditched its primary source of electricity generation, costly diesel imports, in favour of 100% renewable solar power

No, it hasn't. Christ, how misleading can you get? It's using solar AND "generators running on biofuel derived from coconut." Okay, so where do they get the energy to harvest and process the coconuts? How many acres of coconuts are needed to supply their energy? Do they grow those coconuts themselves, or are they imported? The article's analysis is about an inch deep, which is what I'd expect from a site called cleantechnica.

In Europe, economic powerhouse Germany is exported more electricity this year than ever before, despite beginning to phase out nuclear power.

Yup, and beginning its phase-back-in of coal. Germany is building twenty-three new coal plants, and opened a new one in August. This is what happens when you build wind and solar - you also need to build fossil fuel plants to pick up the slack when it's still or cloudy. And when you phase out nuclear, you need reliable base load power to replace it, which wind and solar aren't. So - welcome back, coal. Great work, Greenpeace.
posted by Dasein at 8:34 AM on November 10, 2012 [6 favorites]


*cough* thorium *cough*

like someone said in the climate change thread from yesterday though, the carbon energy gets burnt no matter what. if the developed nations somehow magically stop using it, the developing nations hit the jackpot.

from a comment in the 2009 fpp: A LFTR deployment plan for Australia
posted by ninjew at 8:57 AM on November 10, 2012


It's much easier to go all renewable if you have a) low population density and/or b) low energy use per capita. Because the main renewables all generate quite low energy per square meter of land or sea devoted to those renewables. Even lower if you're not very sunny or windy or tidal of course.

Iceland is making good progress, but that doesn't mean it's equally easy for other countries.

I highly recommend How Many Light Bulbs? if you haven't seen it, and for more details Sustainable Energy Without the Hot Air.

Most depressing thing about the US election was that these issues were barely mentioned. Esp when roughly four years ago we had Obama, Hillary Clinton and McCain all treating it as an important and pressing topic.
posted by philipy at 9:03 AM on November 10, 2012


thinking about "having a car" as "freedom to just get up and leave whatever bad situation you're in": what is the connection between cheap energy and e.g. human rights?

Why not read about the bicycle and women from back in the 'day and see if that gives you some insight.

http://crankedmag.wordpress.com/issues/issue-4/the-importance-of-the-bicycle-to-the-early-womens-liberation-movement/ as an example.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:28 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


*cough* thorium *cough*

The radiation from the failed Corporate reactors are making you sick eh?

You are in good company in being sick from when reactors fail.
posted by rough ashlar at 10:32 AM on November 10, 2012


This is what happens when you build wind and solar - you also need to build fossil fuel plants to pick up the slack when it's still or cloudy.

Or you could just modify your consumption patterns. That is how humans used to live - with the ebb and flow of the energy.

24x7 is what was marketed to people about electric power and became what was expected.

If non-24x7 electrical power is good enough for Baghdad - why isn't that good enough for you? If you are concerned about some future of non-24x7 electrical power....do you have this same concern for humans who used to have such and now do not?
posted by rough ashlar at 10:40 AM on November 10, 2012


Or you could just modify your consumption patterns. That is how humans used to live - with the ebb and flow of the energy.

Yes, we could go back to living like pre-industrial peasants. This would probably make a certain portion of the environment movement happy, but if you're deluded enough to think you can convince people to live like that on the off chance of saving a few polar bears, you're going to be disappointed.

If non-24x7 electrical power is good enough for Baghdad - why isn't that good enough for you?

Because Baghdad is a shit place to live. And who are you to tell Iraqis what's good enough for them? I suspect that most of them don't think that intermittent power is good enough, and want better.
posted by Dasein at 11:26 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


yes also because people and animals never get sick, injured, or dead when it comes to carbon energy production/use
posted by ninjew at 11:34 AM on November 10, 2012


If non-24x7 electrical power is good enough for Baghdad - why isn't that good enough for you?

It's not good enough for Baghdad. Places without constant power don't do it because they like it but because they are unable to produce enough power or because their power infrastructure is terrible. Ask an Indian if they were pleased about the massive blackouts the country experienced this summer.

do you have this same concern for humans who used to have such and now do not?

Yes. People suffered greatly in the past for lack of simple things we take for granted today.

That is how humans used to live - with the ebb and flow of the energy.

People also used to survive without medicine, in that they all did not die at once. That's not really a good argument against the use of medicine.
posted by Sangermaine at 11:41 AM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Iceland is already generating 100% of its electricity from renewables, and its filling stations have fuelling points for cars with hydrogen cells. Granted, Iceland is jaw-droppingly rich in geothermal resources and has a population of 319,000 so this doesn't scale well as a model, but at least it's proof that the green market is not all about solar and wind.

Take wave power. A darling of the tech press in the late 70s and early 80s, everything seemed to go quiet for a while. But there's been steady development in a number of different systems, and the Scottish government has launched the Saltire Prize, with a sum of £10m to be given to the company—from anywhere in the world—that can generate the most energy from sea-power over a two-year period. The smart money seems to be on Pelamis Wave.

Wave energy isn't relevant unless you've got a lot of ocean frontage, but as most of the major polluting countries do, this could be an interesting space to watch.
posted by Hogshead at 12:16 PM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


This would probably make a certain portion of the environment movement happy

a portion that seems to me to have more overlap with the survivalists than i'm comfortable with. there's this kind of millenialist thirst for punishment and cleansing that i'm seeing which probably isn't that great for actually solving the problems

also wait until the Right catches up to "sustainable" as a buzzword, you'll have some real green explanations as to why [social service] is being cut for the nth time

moreover, i am not convinced that you can have a "socially" modern civilization without high energy availability
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:19 PM on November 10, 2012


living like pre-industrial peasants

Even if we wanted to, we can't support a 7 billion world population like that. e.g To feed ourselves at the moment we're using systems that take something like 100 calories worth of energy input to produce a calorie of food output. Without being able to spend energy in that way you can only a support a population of the size the planet had maybe 200-300 years ago at best.

If you want to revert to pre-industrial tech and energy consumption, you're going to have to get rid of 6 billion or so people.
posted by philipy at 12:31 PM on November 10, 2012


The CEO of one coal company just decided to lay off 150+ workers on the news of Obama's re-election , fearing change and the "coal war" which aims to reduce coal-fired power in the US

ITYM "because he's a massive tool who either had 150 unneeded workers on hand to fire as a political gesture, or will get into problems for not having enough workers to run his company soon", or just used the election as an excuse to do what he wanted to do anyway."
posted by MartinWisse at 12:37 PM on November 10, 2012


you're going to have to get rid of 6 billion or so people

the people i worry about are the ones who are okay with that
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 12:56 PM on November 10, 2012


Tokelau is a territory of New Zealand. They are no more a sovereign nation-state than Puerto Rico, French Guiana, or Siberia.
posted by Apocryphon at 12:57 PM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


It's not good enough for Baghdad.

A voice of reason - thank you.

Now the next question - what 'solution' to this problem is going to work for the Baghdad's, North Korea's and other places so that having this marketed 24x7 power is possible for all of Mankind?

Because there is a whole lotta 'fuck you I got mine' thinking in most of The Blue's posts about "having electrical power" and places that used to have 24x7 power and now don't due to the actions of others get glossed over by the bulk of The Blue.

The pro fission crowd - ya all OK with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia with fission plants? How about Libya? Iran? North Korea? Or is splitting the atom only worthwhile for large, responsible Corporations? (responsible corporations - you know like the ones traded on Wall Street)

Because Baghdad is a shit place to live.

So if the place is a shit place to live - it doesn't deserve 24x7 power? I hear Detroit is rather crappy these days. And New Orleans made a worldwide top 25 'bad places to live' list. So does Detroit/New Orleans "deserve" 24x7 electrical power?

And BTW - care to explain why Baghdad is this 'shit place'?

Yes, we could go back to living like pre-industrial peasants.

Amazing - having non 24x7 power is " pre-industrial peasantry". Going from 'grrrr wind and solar output "needs" FF's' and noting that living within energy flows is what used to be done to "pre-industrial peasants"...well done Blu-ites!
posted by rough ashlar at 1:14 PM on November 10, 2012


you're going to have to get rid of 6 billion or so people
the people i worry about are the ones who are okay with that


That crowd covers a wide swath. From the 'let em die of old age - stop making new ones' to the 'wipe 'em out with war or GMOed things'.

Alex Jones likes pointing out ones he happens to think are wanting/working for such a reduction - George Guidestones, various UN programs like Agenda 21 or re-wilding, and other topics. Is Alex a 'problem' or 'solution' in the 'rid planet of 6 bil == worry' position?

And lets say the fusion crowd delivers on cheap electrical power. Splitting water for Hydrogen sounds like a good idea - but has anyone thought about Hydrogen in the atmosphere and the effects on Ozone or more water vapor up that high? How about the added heat in the biosphere from the mass of fusion reactors over the long term?

Hell, does wave power increase water vapor in the atmosphere - what's that global warming effect? How about the upwind from the wave power - the added salt in the air?
posted by rough ashlar at 1:24 PM on November 10, 2012


Solar panel breaks "third of a sun" efficiency barrier
posted by homunculus at 1:27 PM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Tokelau has ditched its primary source of electricity generation, costly diesel imports, in favour of 100% renewable solar power

No, it hasn't. Christ, how misleading can you get? It's using solar AND "generators running on biofuel derived from coconut." Okay, so where do they get the energy to harvest and process the coconuts? How many acres of coconuts are needed to supply their energy? Do they grow those coconuts themselves, or are they imported?


But as a matter of fact, coconuts and their shells can be grown, and even *shipped* in a sustainable manner. They were grown and shipped prior to the age of hydrocarbons, actually, so if we look to history, we have a jumping off place to see how that can be done again.

Progress, not perfection. This is progress.
posted by Athene at 1:28 PM on November 10, 2012


Iceland is already generating 100% of its electricity from renewables, and its filling stations have fuelling points for cars with hydrogen cells. Granted, Iceland is jaw-droppingly rich in geothermal resources

While Iceland gets most of its heat from geothermal it actually gets most of its electricity from its wealth of hydro resources. Interestingly, it can produce heat from geothermal so cheaply that it uses about 1% of total energy use on under pavement heating.
posted by biffa at 1:31 PM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


Hell, does wave power increase water vapor in the atmosphere - what's that global warming effect? How about the upwind from the wave power - the added salt in the air?

There isn't enough operational wave energy in the world that anyone has studied this I would imagine, but I would think it pretty safe to say that it will be incredibly trivial in comparison with the wave energy hitting rocks etc. Plus wave energy generation means less wave energy hitting rocks so more likely this have a negative though trivial impact.
posted by biffa at 1:39 PM on November 10, 2012 [1 favorite]


yeah dude I'm ok with everyone on this planet having fission that works because when it helps them meet basic needs maybe they're not going to want to supply their army with nukes to defend resources they don't have to fight over/for? carbon energy is the biggest "fuck you I got mine" thing on this planet

renewable energy as it exists now solves none of these problems. and you will never ever convince a world full of people that giving things up is progress especially if developing nations have their lights on 24x7 because now they're burning the carbon energy we are not

I don't think ltfr is magically going to create world peace but oil wars aren't awesome, y'know

water wars, though
posted by ninjew at 1:39 PM on November 10, 2012


rough ashlar: "

And BTW - care to explain why Baghdad is this 'shit place'?


Maybe because we destroyed their country and now they have, among many other terrible problems, very spotty electric service that makes it impossible to refrigerate food, properly run hospitals and the other little niceties that we've all grown accustomed to?

Where I live, people drive ATVs up and down the street as if they had their own gas pump. Expecting that these same people will suddenly change to a "use the energy when you have it" model is a pipe dream.

Even a rough ashlar should know that we shouldn't make the perfect the enemy of the good.
posted by double block and bleed at 1:49 PM on November 10, 2012


water wars, though

That is part of the Libya story is mostly skipped over. The Great Manmade River project and one man's POV as to why the war happened.

"use the energy when you have it" model is a pipe dream

And yet - what will be the model if oil flows stop coming into the US of A?
posted by rough ashlar at 2:25 PM on November 10, 2012


I would guess the model would be: Businesses collapse as manufacturers can no longer operate 24/7 or deliver reliably. General downturn in the economy. People die as heating and cooling systems get taken off line to suit the system operator. Political unrest because people get really pissed off if they can't cook, watch tv, have a hot shower, read, etc when they want to. Some technological advances in energy efficiency and grid management.
posted by biffa at 3:36 PM on November 10, 2012


rough ashlar: "And yet - what will be the model if oil flows stop coming into the US of A?"

My idiot neighbors would stop driving ATVs up and down my street?
posted by double block and bleed at 5:38 PM on November 10, 2012


So if the place is a shit place to live - it doesn't deserve 24x7 power?

Huh? You're the one saying that it's good enough for Baghdad, not me. You're being totally incoherent.
posted by Dasein at 8:58 PM on November 10, 2012


And BTW - care to explain why Baghdad is this 'shit place'?

Not really. You can pick up a newspaper yourself.
posted by Dasein at 9:02 PM on November 10, 2012


Renewable energy sources stand in relation to hydrocarbon sources as does a bath full of tepid water to a bath full of hot water and ice cubes - same energy content, different capacities to do work.

The statement "sooner or later there will be a viable alternate energy system" is a product of the failure to comprehend the specific nature of our current energy system in terms of flow between contrasting energy densities.
posted by falcon at 1:17 AM on November 11, 2012


Renewable energy sources stand in relation to hydrocarbon sources as does a bath full of tepid water to a bath full of hot water and ice cubes

cite pls
posted by This, of course, alludes to you at 2:49 AM on November 11, 2012


Dasein: "Tokelau has ditched its primary source of electricity generation, costly diesel imports, in favour of 100% renewable solar power

No, it hasn't. Christ, how misleading can you get? It's using solar AND "generators running on biofuel derived from coconut." Okay, so where do they get the energy to harvest and process the coconuts? How many acres of coconuts are needed to supply their energy? Do they grow those coconuts themselves, or are they imported? The article's analysis is about an inch deep, which is what I'd expect from a site called cleantechnica.


I can take a shot at answering a few of your questions, as I spent a couple months on one of the atolls of Tokelau.

Harvesting and processing the coconuts would be done entirely by humans. There's not much else to do in Tokelau, to be honest. Go fishing, eat, sleep, go to church. Want a diversion? Get some coconuts and do some processing to prep 'em for biodiesel!

Acreage-wise, the atolls have more palm trees than you can shake a fist at, and even with a lot of people and pigs eating coconuts, they haven't had a problem in the last few hundred years.

And yes, the coconuts are grown on Tokelau. Haven't you ever read Far Side?
posted by barnacles at 6:12 AM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


And BTW - care to explain why Baghdad is this 'shit place'?

Because, in its lust to control the country's oil supply, the US fabricated evidence of weapons of mass destruction and invaded the country, destroying its infrastructure.

But oil is a problem-free energy source and we shouldn't try to find alternatives.
posted by dirigibleman at 8:15 AM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Germany is building twenty-three new coal plants, and opened a new one in August. This is what happens when you build wind and solar - you also need to build fossil fuel plants to pick up the slack when it's still or cloudy.

Some of these new coal plants in Germany are replacements for older plants that have been decommissioned. Nothing changes the fact that "the demand for electricity from non-renewable sources will drop by half between 2010 and 2020." (Der Spiegel)

And when you phase out nuclear, you need reliable base load power to replace it, which wind and solar aren't.
But with conservation and improved efficiency, along with better storage and smart grid management, we could switch to renewables without the need for large-scale baseload.--"Germany shows that renewable is doable" / David Suzuki
Ultra-high voltage transmission allows for the creation of a global transmission grid, obviating much of the problem of fluctuating production with solar. Improved storage is another promising means of advancing solar.
posted by No Robots at 8:30 AM on November 11, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does anyone have faith in a mildly efficient air/solar-to-gas process? Doesn't need to be great; gasoline is *such* a great medium for energy transport that just a scalable process would be acceptable.
posted by effugas at 11:29 PM on November 11, 2012


U.S. to overtake Saudi as top oil producer: IEA. The United States will overtake Saudi Arabia and Russia as the world's top oil producer by 2017, the West's energy agency said on Monday, predicting Washington will come very close to achieving a previously unthinkable energy self-sufficiency.
posted by homunculus at 12:15 PM on November 12, 2012


EU Climate Head Wants Obama to Pull His Weight
posted by homunculus at 10:59 PM on November 15, 2012


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