[FoRK] Malthusian machinations

Eugen Leitl eugen at leitl.org
Tue Jun 15 04:49:48 PDT 2010

On Sat, Jun 12, 2010 at 12:30:40PM -0500, Jeff Bone wrote:
> >
> >There are no other options, anyway.
> I rarely disagree with you, Eugen, but I've got to call BS on this.
> First, EROI doesn't tell the whole story:  you've got to factor in the  
> *cost* of the input units.  It will be different for different  
> technologies at different points along the way.

There are only two nonnegligible (don't care much for tidal) 
sources of energy on this planet, and both are of stellar origin. 
One is fissionables (both nuclear fission, and geothermal), 
which is fossil fusion packaged as radioisotopes. The second one 
is solar fusion.

The fossil energy is fossilized sunlight from the past couple
billion years, which has peaked. Not much more where there
came from. Derived from that you've got aeolean and hydro. 
Hydro is almost entirely tapped. Aeolean has variability, so
it either needs storage or supergrids, or both.

Nonfossil biomass is largely tapped. 

So what is actually left? Only nonfossil sunlight, which
is 1.3 kW/m^2 flux. If you do the math you realize that
structures out there are already entirely sufficient, so
the question is one of price and storage/large-scale distribution.

Baseline is something like 1/3rd of daytime peak, even at today's
nighttime pricing, so I presume you don't have to store that much,
if at all for time being.

As to pricing, it's factor 2-3x removed from residential grid.
It seems that long-term, we'll almost entirely leech on our star.
> "All eggs in one basket" is rarely a good idea.

It won't be one basket, since there's a very diverse power base
out there already (if in your location it isn't, you know what
needs fixing).
> You want to keep the cities lit?  The path to 100% solar passes  
> through a nuke period. I don't see any way around it; ubiquitous  

We are in a nuke period. No need to build new, since they'll
won't ROI over lifetime (current lifetime exceeds 60 years, with
the trend up). Ditto applies to fossil.

> locally produced electricity is obviously far better, but the delta  

Micro co-gen, run via methane (80% overall efficiency). Supplement 
methane with biogas and syngas (Sabatier) and/or hydrogen from water 
electrolysis from wind/PV, including rooftop PV surplus.

> between now and that is far greater than just swapping out centralized  
> sources.  Modulo the plant friction you mentioned, of course, but we  
> have far better technology these days.  We just don't have the will.

The budget allocation for military, stimulus and bailouts tells a pretty
clear message about where the priorities lie.
> Re the wet phase stuff, read the paper.  There are some interesting  

The problem with wet stuff is that you need to process an Amazonas' worth
of flux. And not just to process it, but at EROEI of better than 25:1.
Ideally, 100:1. Since current processes have negative EROEI (nevermind
the processing volume issue, that is entirely unapproachable) this means
it won't happen. 

What, exactly, is wrong with the solar constant?

> bits, there... I don't need to point out that we have vast experience  
> in large-scale industrial chemical engineering.  And the ligand  
> assembly / dissassembly helps the efficiency a lot relative to prior  
> efforts.
> But like I said, I don't think any of this is sufficient to focus on  
> exclusively at this point.  Run the search in parallel.  With  
> competition.  For money.  Now.

We're in zero-sum budget country now. No more fooling around. Whatever
you pick now has to be empirically be already validated and show that
it would scale. 
> $0.02

Eugen* Leitl <a href="http://leitl.org">leitl</a> http://leitl.org
ICBM: 48.07100, 11.36820 http://www.ativel.com http://postbiota.org
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