Posting in Energy
Renewable energy will win out. That's where the next wave of economic growth lies. By creating market incentives for it, we can get our share. Or we can let politics continue destroying our economy, along with our planet.
When you are spending money it's a cost. When you're getting it then it's revenue. When it's sitting out there waiting to be earned, it's opportunity.
That's what global warming really is, an opportunity. Americans are in the best position to seize it, still. Here is why.
Europe is willing to give $3 billion starting next year to help underdeveloped countries cope with climate change. Those countries want more, despite being at greatest risk, or they say they will continue killing rain forests for firewood.
There is only one force powerful enough to turn this around, and it's not the U.S. dollar.
It's Moore's Law.
Moore's Law is implicated in global warming because it takes a lot of electricity to make and run chips. But chips requiring less power are becoming more powerful all the time -- Intel, IBM and AMD all make them.
The move was not made out of altruism. It was made to reduce heat. As circuit lines get closer the heat from moving electrons through them builds up and can short out the chip. The answer is to move fewer electrons, to run the chip at a lower voltage.
So the model of future computing isn't a desktop, plugged into a wall, but a laptop run on a rechargeable battery. Big savings there.
Supercomputers have changed, too. Google runs off a collection or ordinary PCs. Ordinary game machines can be turned into supercomputers, thanks to parallel processing. Lower power requirements, more processing power.
You probably know that today's solar panels are made much like chips. That's why Applied Materials is moving so heavily into solar panels. Very basic chip-making equipment can be repurposed, and they can sell a lot of gear that way.
Now what about new sources of power, and the problems of getting that power to market? Growing Internet resources, and low power supercomputers, accelerate that research, too.
What kind of energy research benefits most from better computing resources? It's renewable resources, including efficiency. You can double the output of any power plant by using better materials for the transmission lines. That research is accelerated by Moore's Law.
I don't want to sound like a Pollyanna here. But problems can also be opportunities.
You can solve problems by throwing money at them. You pursue opportunities best through market incentives. That is what the current debate over the government's climate bill is about -- where will we place incentives for producing and delivering the power we'll need over the next 10-20 years?
Current law gives most of those incentives to oil, gas, and coal. None of these energy sources have to pay many of their external costs, either in extracting the resource or burning it.
We worry constantly over what to do with nuclear waste, but what about the waste from coal-fired power plants? Forget the CO2 these plants generate -- are we accounting for the disposal of their mercury?
By simply accounting for the true costs of hydrocarbons, we create market incentives for renewable sources that don't have those costs.
The aim of climate change denialists is not just to deny climate change. It is, in the end, to avoid these questions, the cost of extracting and burning hydrocarbons, the chain of market incentives we have given those industries, the lack of incentive in current law for energy sources that don't have those costs.
But over time the cost of creating and delivering renewable energy is coming down. Moore's Law supports these changes. Hydrocarbons can't say that.
So renewable energy will win out. That's where the next wave of economic growth lies. By creating market incentives for it, we can get our share. Or we can let politics continue destroying our economy, along with our planet.
Dec 11, 2009
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I agree that Moores law will help create and enhance many industries. Efficiency is a good thing and it makes everything else better. There are some good points in this article however there is a tendency to justify some backwards actions by pointing to other wrong practices. If mercury is being dropped into the environment then the government (and not necessarily the federal but the state) should step in and manage the problem. If CO2 is a real problem, then it needs a real solution. Solar and wind cannot replace coal today or at anytime in the forseeable future. Nuclear however can create cheap electricity with less environmental impact than anything else. The waste is an issue but you have to compare evils. Which is worse nuclear waste under a mountain or CO2 which according to Al Gore might melt the ice caps in 5 years? The "deniers of climate change" are fragmented in opinion just like the "believers of climate change". Some disagree on the basic premise that the planet is getting hotter/cooler. At the next stage there is disagreement whether man is the cause of any perceived change. The final point of contention is about how critical it is to change our actions which are causing the change. Besides the deniers & the believers there is a third group that doesn't care about the issue directly but just want's to be able to profit from it. Just like an arms dealer that sells to both sides, they don't want a winner but just an on going struggle. However they won't profit from efficiency but rather from creating barriers to efficiency which they will manage for the greater good.
Let me clarify... Researching, developing and marketing alternative energy sources is most definitely a worthwhile pursuit. But it should be done for the right reasons. Not to weaken our country by compromising our sovereignty and destroying industry and capitalism along the way. Knee-jerk, emotional decisions usually aren't good ones. Don't let the rest of the world dictate our priorities. Certain other countries want to complain about us and see us weakened, and then they want us to foot the bill. Entrepreneurship, leadership, creativity, hard work, innovation, and Freedom to develop effective, profitable alternatives will provide for the future. Those are the sources of our strength. Hopefully, that's the kind of opportunity you mean.
Simplistic nonsense. I like how "global warming" has now morphed into "climate change", which is just another way to separate you from your money and line the pockets of power brokers who want to dictate who has what by redistributing wealth, profiteering, and gaining power. This is hog wash. You presume in your arrogance that you KNOW the truth of "climate change." This hasn't been documented for thousands of years in order to make a legitimate case, except to promote a self-serving agenda. And just recently more information has come to light to cast further doubt on the basis upon which the "climate change" chicken littles have constructed their insidious propaganda. I trust those more who seek the truth; and less those who claim to know it. Should we look for new fuel sources that are not detrimental to our planet? Of course. But, for now at least, ours is a fossil fuels-based economy. If you can offer a better alternative, be my guest. The planet, its residents, and investors welcome such innovation. But this whole notice of "not letting a good crisis go unexploited" is obscene and dangerous. And you're playing right into it.
Sure, we can always wait for fossil fuel to dry up on its own, but unless we have something thats free to replace it with now, fossil fuel will remain in use until there is none left. The suppliers treat fossil fuel as free energy - they charge us enough to cover their costs in recovering it from the ground to do so. Thing is, its not free, is it? It has terrible cost to the environment and really needs to be replaced with something these ground-grubbers also perceive as free energy. We appear to be stuck with the supplier-consumer model for now in any case. Currently there is no technology in use, development or even research that can replace fossil fuel, but plenty of work being done on how to scrape the barrel. These dinosaurs wont leave the carcass theyve been feeding on any time soon, thats for sure. If you arent appalled at the glee with which they are descending on clathrates, you should be. They are rubbing their hands together at the prospect of many times more carbon-locked energy than theyve already dug up as oil, and all for free as far as they are concerned. Clear profit... You cant compete with free, Dana, it'll take nothing less than a change in public perception and in law to stop them, and their plans for the future dont include that. My argument though is that we should halt the use of fossil fuels before they dry up anyway, as the reserves we have left will come at higher and higher costs, both physically and to the environment. Just because it becomes cheaper to move electrons another way in the future doesnt mean we should wait until then to leverage it. Thanks, I'll give it a read.
Raise supply and prices fall. Raise supply so that costs fall below the cost of producing something and that supply dries up. Call it West Coast Law in action. I think of any climate change treaty as akin to East Coast Law. For more see Larry Lessig's classic "Code is Law."
Even if current law no longer gives incentives to fossil fuels, how is that going to change things before it matters? It matters now, and yet the actual suppliers of the fossil fuels themselves, those who dig it out of the ground simply shrug. They know that fossil fuels are finite, and they know how much the remaining portion is worth. Incentives to research cleaner sources are actually being spent on research into squeezing Earths crust dry like a sponge. The reality is, in 2050 we are more likely to be burning synthetic gas made from bitumen seams in the soil and clathrates locked under the permafrost to recharge our electric vehicles. Both of these things release CO2 during extraction and combustion, more so than conventional oils and coal do now - and yet nothing is being done to stop their research, extraction and sale. There is only one way to halt the use of fossil fuel, and that is to make it valueless to those who dig it up.