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POTUS’ Peter Pan Complex?

I know this political cartoon is meant as satire, but I think the artist is misguided. Many inventions are created not with people encouraging each other, but by people who believe they do something despite what others tell them. As I discussed some time back, in More Thoughts on Solar, nearly 6000 times the energy we currently use hits the Earth each day in the form of solar energy. It will take a bit more than wishful thinking, I know, but I believe that investing in solar as an alternate energy has the potential to change the world for the better. Avoiding just one disaster as we’ve just seen in the gulf will be return enough.


  • MoneyCone June 19, 2010, 8:58 am

    On the topic of green energy, I found this interesting ad from Studebaker Corporation from 1905.


    Studebaker started making electric cars first and then 2 years later, gasoline and marketed both! Electric cars a century back! What happened? Why did it take 100 years to revisit this technology?

    I think our dependence on oil can be minimized if we have the political will. Maybe it takes a disaster like BP to start thinking different…

  • JOE June 19, 2010, 9:24 am

    I don’t know what tipping point will be, but a part of me is sad that gas came back down. For the few months that it was heading to $4, we had a lot of interest in alternate energy. The great thing about the electric car is that it would naturally charge overnight, when other demand is low.
    The cost per mile is lower than with a gas car, so there’s some combination of yet higher gas, lower priced electric car, and wanting to avoid the next BP, and the gates will open.

  • Augustine June 21, 2010, 9:28 am

    The mere potential of solar energy does not matter. A good energy source is not good because of the raw energy available but by the net energy available after all process to recoup it.

    In the case of oil, the net energy output was tremendous: drill a hole and oil gushes out. This will, of course, become less and less true as peak oil, or rather, peak CHEAP oil is reached.

    In the case of solar, most of the population lives where only half or less of it is available (30% latitude or more). Moreover, 6000 times sounds ominous, but we don’t live where the sun is shining all the time. Yet, I do think that it will make sense that solar becomes one among many energy sources, just not THE one.

    As a matter of fact, I’d rather see energy generation to become more decentralized. I’d rather be happy if each home could have its own source of energy, including for its transportation needs. The model of big power-plants and a politicized (as in corrupting corrupt politicians) industry is, I think, part of the problem.

  • JOE June 21, 2010, 2:58 pm

    I understand, but still remain more optimistic than you. I need to get more educated on the statistics, but I’d suggest that it starts with places like Phoenix and Austin (for example) sunny climates where peak demand would be related to air conditioning use. Even in the northeast, the summer months create the toughest loads. I’d expect the first step is for the places with the most sun-hours per year to be the earlier adopters as their breakeven is higher (i.e. they benefit from a solar panel cost that’s higher than a lower sun-hour area). As cost continues to drop, volume goes up, and some portion of our power demand is supplied. As you suggest, production may move local, with a combination of wind, or gas generated electricity produced at the town level or individual neighborhoods.
    I don’t know the final mix, but I know it has to change from where we are now.

  • buck June 22, 2010, 9:19 pm

    The biggest reason that alternative energy sources have not been used/found is that most alternative means are inefficient and test the limits of physics. There is no alternative transportation device that can haul a father and mother and their 2.3 kids safely in one’s one schedule than a current vehicle with a internal combustion engine that burns a hydrocarbon. Period. Add in whatever local enviromental demands/perks/options they want and you can’t beat an automobile. As far as household energy, nuclear is far more efficient but has waste and radiation issues that people don’t want to face. Wind power is not commercially viable as is solar which can supplement existing coal, oil and gas facilities but cannot stand on their own because of their inherent local sources and inefficiencies. Besides, this country doesn’t want dirty manufacturing, smelting, milling, stamping plants in this country to consume any power source that would conflict with “clean” lawyers, accountants service people and paper pushers in offices.

  • Augustine June 23, 2010, 9:07 am

    Something else to keep in mind is that it takes many decades for new energy sources to become dominant. It took oil some 60 to 80 years to displace coal. Nuclear took some 40 years to displace oil. Natural gas is yet to displace oil or nuclear. And this is only when it comes to power-plants.

    When it comes to transportation, can you imagine a battery-powered airplane or cargo ship? Even in urban centers battery-powered cars come with a load of uncertainty.

    And let’s not forget that only 50% of the oil used by America is used in transportation. Besides energy, about 30% is used for fertilizers, plastics, etc.

    So, no. No clap of hands will make the economy be based on sliced dolphins instead of oil.

  • JOE June 23, 2010, 10:11 am

    I appreciate the response, you are right, the adoption can’t occur as fast as I’d like.
    Hadn’t thought about planes at all.
    I’m thinking the rate of adoption will not be some smooth curve. It’s not tough to tap into one’s circuit panel to add the feed from solar. This part of it becomes a math problem, no? If I can save $1000/yr, what’s that worth to me? And if I’m selling that product, I can finance it so the customer isn’t out of pocket up front a dime.
    On the flip side, the electric car will take a complete paradigm shift, and it may never take off.

  • Joe Morgan June 23, 2010, 9:07 pm

    I think the point of the cartoon is that hope alone does not make a thing real.

    As Augustine points out so well, it’s more than just some nebulous conspiracy by “big oil” that has kept oil as the dominant source of energy. And it will take more than a politician to bring about alternative energy…. in short, you can’t legislate scientific breakthroughs..

  • Trish July 17, 2010, 7:37 am

    It’s past time to stop using foreign oil! Maybe we will always need some oil, but we just have to stop depending on Middle East oil. There are 3 fairly easy things that all of us can do now to make a difference. 1- Stop pumping gas into your car! If you have a gas guzzler now, convert it into an electric car (see this blueprint for example). No more gas! 2- Stop using electricity off the electric grid! Either build solar panels (like this one), or build a cheap magnetic generator (like this one). Not very hard! 3- Learn to bike or walk! If you are only going a mile to the shop, walk or bike there. My 2 cents.

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