Tuesday, September 4, 2007

It would really help if we just ran out of oil!

I was writing with a former colleague I hadn't heard from recently. We've always enjoyed a certain give and take, because our backgrounds and politics are pretty far from each other. The title for this entry was his comment to the following. It was how I answered his reaction to finding out that I've started working with solar energy: "I'm for more nuke plants until the horsepower of the solar is improved."
(I took the picture at sunset from the Falmouth Forside ME Ocean Grill in mid August.)

This is what I had answered:
Solar is ready to go. We just have to build plants to produce all the panels we need. We have more than 20,000 people on our waiting list. Since we’re a start-up we can’t begin installations for about a year, but there is a tremendous demand as long as the price is right! There is enough sun on this earth to easily cover our needs, the “fuel” is free and since there are no moving parts it is almost maintenance free. Think of all the roofs where they could be placed – on factories, business parks, supermarkets, not to mention all the houses built after a certain date.

Nuclear on the other hand takes at least 10 years from the drawing board to production. Plants are extremely expensive, as is the fuel. There is a considerable unsolved problem about what to do with the waste – and the biggest issue of all is that uranium, like oil and even coal, is peaking, which means total production per year will be falling soon, even to feed existing reactors, while the need is increasing.

Which means that the most important energy “source” is actually energy conservation – higher fuel standards, better insulation, Energy Star appliances including light-bulbs, and changing our behavior to remember to turn out lights and computers we’re not using, or using this computer CO2 saver.)
Trouble is, I replied, there’s lots of oil and coal – it’s just not very accessible from oil sands and removing mountain tops (and ruining landscapes and lives!) So people keep saying all we need is the technology to keep up going. (And that technology is solar!)

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