There Could Be Blood
July 15, 2008 6:36 PM   Subscribe

Andy Grove on Our Electric Future - "Energy independence [viz.] is the wrong goal. Here is a plan Americans can stick to." Perhaps some infrastructure spending1,2 is in order? [etc., &c., cf.]

also see :P

- "Tesla Motors Is Delivering Cars"
- "Superconducting Power Grid Launches In New York"
- "New heights reached in polymer based solar cell efficiency"
[S]pray a sheet of glass with a mixture of dyes combined with a substance called tris(8-hydroxyquinoline) aluminium. In combination, the dyes and the glass act as the waveguide, preventing light from escaping. Meanwhile, the interaction between the different dye molecules and those of the tris(8-hydroxyquinoline) aluminium allows a quantum-mechanical phenomenon, called Förster energy transfer, to come into play. This eliminates the reabsorption loss by ensuring that light is re-emitted at a frequency which the dye molecules cannot then reabsorb.

On top of this—literally—Dr Currie and Dr Mapel have come up with another trick: placing a second sandwich of dye and glass over the first. The upper layer of dye intercepts high-energy light, such as ultraviolet. The lower one captures longer wavelengths that have passed unperturbed through the upper, and also any lower-energy light that has been re-emitted within the top layer and somehow escaped. The upshot is a device that, even as a prototype, converts ten times more of the incident light into electricity than a conventional solar cell. [and btw]
posted by kliuless (13 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
oh and if i may just pad my post with some sage advice from zakaria/sachs...
Sachs had an intriguing position: that we were going to take all these heroic measures to shore up the economy but a recession has to come anyway. What we need to focus on is the long-term problems that have accumulated: we save too little, spend and borrow too much, and over-consume fossil fuels.

If we just prop up the housing and credit markets one more time, this will delay once more, dealing with the long-term problem.

CNN: But doesn't a president have to focus on the short-term?

Zakaria: Well, Sachs made an interesting analogy in the green room. He said, if Obama gets elected he would advise him not to declare war on this recession. "This is Bush's recession," he said.

His advice: Look at Ronald Reagan. He took the economic pain of an early recession in 1981-82, let the Fed wring inflation out of the system, and then as his economic policies came into effect got the benefit of being credited with the rebound.

He argues that this is the moment to focus on the long-term problems that will hobble the U.S. economy.
i guess this may come off as a disparate seeming post, so to try and head off any confusion i may have created and allay suspicion, i'm struck by the myriad and complex challenges currently facing the US (and the world!) BUT what is also fascinating/heartening to me is the entrepreneurial spiritresponse, search for solutions and leadership (in conjunction w/ calls for public assistance ;) that people like andrew grove, t.boone pickens and vinod khosla are putting on display. energy (efficiency) seems like it might be the key not just to the climate and other geopolitical security problems, but for the economy as well...
posted by kliuless at 7:04 PM on July 15, 2008

I see, as long as civilization plays this out right, a renaissance coming in pretty soon. I don't know how, I don't know when, but soon seems to be the ticket...

*end random comment*
posted by JoeXIII007 at 7:10 PM on July 15, 2008

Slides from Grove's talk.
posted by thebestsophist at 7:32 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

Disclaimer: Groves donates to the non-profit I work for.
posted by thebestsophist at 7:34 PM on July 15, 2008

we have been here before
posted by HappyHippo at 7:42 PM on July 15, 2008 [1 favorite]

I don't really follow the "sticky energy" argument, but in general Grove nails it.

Whenever I tell a fellow engineer that my next car (2010) is going to be a plug-in hybrid, and they scoff, I take it as my personal mission to have a long talk with them and dispel the myths. It's rather disturbing that even technically capable people can still be making arguments like "it just shifts the pollution source" and "you'll just be paying higher electric bills".

Same goes for politics, but that's another thread ...
posted by intermod at 8:39 PM on July 15, 2008

Why does he pick electric cars as being the winner whilst failing to mention alternative, potentially carbon neutral, alternative sources of fuel?

Second and third generation biofuels have huge potential. Even first generation ethanol from sugar cane is economically viable, green and expandable as there are a lot of places in the world where you can grow sugar cane. Brazil has a successful program now. Other places like India, Australia and much of equatorial Africa could too.

He doesn't even mention this in his article. It's a serious omission.
posted by sien at 9:24 PM on July 15, 2008

I think anyone who sees the cars and houses still sitting in the suburbs waiting for a replacement commuter car, even if by rail, is missing the point by a few miles. We can start building upwards as soon as possible, only outdated zoning laws are preventing it. There are advantages to the layout. Windmills atop taller buildings can lift tons of weights and pump water, using the weights to augment elevators, generating power with waste water. Stairs would be used more as exercise, with elevators costing per trip. Heating and cooling would be maximally conserved. Recycling can be done more efficiently, etc. Even if we produce more electricity with coal, it doesn't warrant driving it to waste.
posted by Brian B. at 9:42 PM on July 15, 2008

Someone asked me by MeFiMail (why not in thread? who knows):

Q: I don't understand what's false about "it just shifts the pollution source." Certainly, if you can get more electricity from wind or water, there's less pollution than coal or natural gas-fired plants, and large-scale coal or gas generators may be more efficient than a local IC engine, but are you not in fact shifting the pollution source?

A: You see it when you look at ACTUAL performance. Let's take the worst case, an electric car powered 100% by the dirtiest coal power plant. In that case, it turns out that you will emit 70% LESS carbon dioxide for any given distance travelled. A large power plant is simply more efficient than burning the fuel in the little portable gas engine in your car. Source:

And realistically you won't be in the worst case most of the time -- you'll be drawing power from cleaner sources than the dirtiest coal. Further, in the BEST case scenario you can charge using solar energy from your roof. That is just not even possible with a fossil-fuel solution. A PHEV turns "can't" into "can", as in "I CAN drive using clean energy if I want", and you can still use gas if necessary.

The third image in Grove's piece illustrates it simply.

Come 2010, you are going to see a lot of PHEVs coming to market (it's not a pipe dream, the models are in feverish development, do some research), and that's going to put us on that next rung. I'm buying one, period. Mark my words, you'll start thinking about it too.
posted by intermod at 9:37 PM on July 16, 2008

the models are in feverish development, do some research


One other thought. Anyone defending the use of coal should also do some research. It's very good stuff in some theoretical uses, perhaps a slurry used in a fuel cell, but burning low grades of it too close to cities is probably not worth having, and burning it away results in a huge percentage loss from leakage and resistance, in a very expensive transmission grid.
posted by Brian B. at 7:05 AM on July 17, 2008

here're some more :P

- The Decarbonization Macro-Trend
- Power Awareness Quiz
- Calculating your savings from slowing down
- The Southwest desert's real estate boom
From California to Arizona, demand for sites for solar power projects has ignited a land grab. No one has been as quick to move into the Mojave -- or as tightlipped about it -- as Solar Investments.

That entity, it turns out, is Goldman Sachs' solar subsidiary. The investment bank's designs on the desert are a topic of intense interest and speculation. Goldman declined to comment. But here's what we know:

Solar Investments filed its first land claim in December 2006 and within a month had applied for more than 125,000 acres for power plants that would produce ten gigawatts of electricity. Many of the sites lie close to the transmission lines that connect the desert to coastal cities. (Goldman has also staked claims on 40,000 acres of the Nevada desert.)

Nobody expects Goldman to begin operating solar plants. It will probably either partner with another developer or sell its limited-liability company (and its leases) outright. The firm has been making the rounds of solar developers....

"I view Goldman as a very interesting indicator of things to come," says Brian McDonald, PG&E's director of renewable-resource development.
- New Financial and Economic Challenges for a New American President (video)
First, America’s dependence on foreign capital has grown rapidly due to:
1) The collapse in US domestic savings.
2) The widening of the nation’s trade deficit, driven in significant part by rising oil imports, and
3) The enormous increase in borrowing by American consumers, the federal government, and indeed virtually all segments of the US economy...

A growing portion of US debt is owed to overseas private investors and government institutions. In 2001, they together held 30% of outstanding Treasury securities; now they hold 45%...

Second, trade now accounts for a larger portion of US economic activity than in 2001. In 2001, US exports amounted to just over 9% of GDP; today they amount to 12%. Imports have risen from 14% to 17% of GDP... More and more US jobs depend on exports. At the same time, a growing portion of the US economy, including services, is subject to international competition...

Third, the dollar must now contend with a world-class challenger – the Euro. In 2001, the Euro accounted for less than 20% of world reserves (based on IMF data), the dollar accounted for 72%. Today dollar reserves are down to 64%, and that share is declining; reserves held in Euro, on the other hand, are approaching 27% and its share rising, as central banks – including the vast majority of those in Asia – diversify their foreign exchange holdings. An increasing number of international transactions, some oil included, are invoiced in Euros; very few were a decade ago.

Fourth, the US share of world GDP has fallen from 34% in 2001 to 28% today, while that of Brazil, Russia, India and China (the BRIC countries) has doubled, from 8% to 16%...

Lastly, in 2001, oil cost $26 per barrel; now it costs five times that. Half of the oil consumed in the US a decade ago was imported; now around 60% is imported. During this period, world energy consumers have transferred $3 trillion to oil producers, enabling many of them to accumulate enormous financial strength in a very short period of time... Among other things, this shift means that the influence of Washington – through the Treasury and the IMF – has diminished...

In light of these striking transformations, the incoming US administration will need to make important policy changes small measure of humility is in order now; relative financial power has shifted...

First, America’s political leadership must recognize that unless recent improvements in the US trade balance can be sustained, and accelerated, and domestic savings rise sharply, the US will remain heavily dependent on foreign capital... Foreigners have a wide range of choices about where to invest... Frequent financial crises, large trade imbalances, a series of outsized budget deficits, and failure to put Social Security and Medicare on a sounder financial footing could undermine investor confidence... If US policymakers want to reduce dependence on foreign capital, they will need to find ways to increase domestic savings, shrink the federal deficit, reduce the heavy reliance of American consumers on credit and curb oil imports...

Second, with foreign competition intensifying, rapid growth taking place in many other parts of the world, and large numbers of American jobs and corporate profits dependent on expanding exports, the new administration will need to take measures to boost US competitiveness... American policymakers can neither deny the intensity of the dislocations and job insecurity resulting from foreign competition, nor ignore the enormous global market opportunities... this country cannot, without a huge cost, insulate itself from these new and powerful forces or abandon its longstanding leadership in the quest for a more open, rules-based trading system. Turning inward in an era when exports are critical to a prosperous American economy would be deeply counterproductive... But it would be equally counterproductive to ignore the measures needed at home to enable greater numbers of Americans to benefit from trade and to boost the nation’s overall growth – as well as to reverse the growing income gap in this country.

A robust response to these concerns requires vastly improved training and education, especially in math, engineering, physics and science. And more than ever this must benefit minorities and immigrants, who constitute the fastest-growing portion of the American work-force. Education has been the “great equalizer” in the US for many decades; if it falters, then the wealth gap and the discontent gap in American society will grow. Public support for open trade will be only one of many casualties...

Critical also is acceleration of government and private-sector investment in research and development... Washington also needs to invest, and incentivize the private sector to invest, in physical infrastructure (which emerging countries are doing on a massive scale to boost their competitiveness). And it must provide more reliable wage/pension/health-care security for individuals displaced from their jobs by imports as well as other causes.

If large numbers of Americans remain insecure about their jobs, health-care coverage and pension benefits, and if workers cannot change jobs without losing important benefits, and low-income households cannot participate in the overall prosperity of the economy, restoring a consensus in support of a more open trading policy will be extremely difficult.
posted by kliuless at 12:29 PM on July 17, 2008

Toward a Type 1 civilization
posted by kliuless at 8:13 AM on July 22, 2008

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