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Welcome to Walter Moore Canada's Blog. These comments are strictly opinion. You can disagree!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Power Solutions

Updated 2009-11-25
Well oil went to just under $150 which really makes the original publication even more relative. Even now oil is around $80 which is 8 times as much as it was in 2003 when I originally posted on this issue. This is one of my pet peeves. We can do something, it  is simple if the political will was really there. You just subsidise the good with taxes on the bad. It is amazing how money seems to suddenly find a way to make things work. We have subsidized the bad for far to long. Let’s try something different and promote the good for a change.
I am embarrassed by the Canadian record on environment and wildlife. The reality is most Canadians don’t know what large corporations are doing to the lands. properties are clear-cut just to a point where you can’t see it from the road. Many companies work away from the public so we are not aware of the damage being done. Once we find out the company simply moves to another country and leaves the mess for us to clean up($$$). We need the agencies that are supposed to protect these things to have the power and ability to enforce the rules. It seems virtually all these agencies have been destroyed either by no budget or no enforcement power. The people in these roles are trying but there is only so much they can do until the government motivation clearly shows them that they have the power, money and backing when push comes to shove. Like many other governments ours seem to talk the talk but is barely crawling let alone walking. Things like the tar sands are not helping things. Sure jobs are made but at what cost. Companies have to be held accountable for the damages their products create. We really need a “cradle to grave” solution so companies that cause the most damage pay the most. 

Published 2003-03-10
It’s funny to think that numerous cultures, hundreds of years ago had better power solutions than we have now.
First off, we have more available power than we need in the foreseeable future. All we have to do is look outside the oil/nuclear box for far superior solutions. Once governments around the world subsidize clean, renewable sources instead of oil/nuclear the advances will be far beyond any of our expectations.
The biggest problem I see in providing clean, renewable sources of power is governments lack of commitment. Sure they all talk environment but then subsidize the large corporations creating dirty, non-renewable sources of power. In Ontario, Canada the provincial government subsidizes Hydro… Technically they don’t… They tell Hydro what the rates will be to the consumer and if Hydro over spends it can borrow the money from the government. This has been going on for over 30 years and now Hydro owes our government billions and is forced into charging $0.043 per KWH for the next 5 years. Far less than the “cost” of the power and it’s distribution. How can renewable sources compete.
Furthermore, infrastructure has to be put in place to promote better solutions. Perhaps a surcharge for non-renewable, dirty fuel that directly passes to discounts for renewable, clean sources. The only way to succeed is to make the old ways expensive and the new ways profitable. Only then will society change in mass numbers. We could also expect more investment would create cheaper methods of harnessing power. Thus creating an increasing demand for cleaner power.
The key to future success for any society will be their ability to create infinitely renewable environmentally neutral power sources. Societies that base their power solutions on oil, nuclear or plant sources will eventually fail. Societies that generate more power than they use will become much more powerful in the near term future.
Given what we already know about future power requirements wind, solar, water and lightning are going to be in demand. Once electric cars become more popular these renewable sources may become a necessity.
With Canada’s resources we should be one of the largest power generators in the world. We have large space to put up wind and solar farms, huge water sources, geo-thermal sources and of course then there is lightning. I would like to see us provide enough power for the world. If it were possible to get all the world governments together just think of the solutions… Desserts, mountains and oceans would become huge power generating locations.  
We have everything we need to provide unlimited clean, renewable power. Now we just need the political motivation. Countries like Iceland, Norway, Finland and Sweden are leading the way. As a Canadian I am embarrassed at our lack of commitment. I would easily pay double the cost if it ensured future generations had clean renewable power sources. It will never be cheap but sometimes you have to consider more than money. I do not want future generations paying for our lack of foresight. In this case even the stupidest person can see clean renewable sources are the way to go.
Internal combustion engines must die. Inherently they “burn” fuel and create emissions. Even solutions like fuel cells may increase precipitation as they emit water droplets. There is little need to use “burning” solutions given all the available options. They have demonstrated long-term unacceptable impacts on our environment. 
Below are several power sources and my simplistic assessment of each.
Oil/Natural Gas Sources
Sucks up valuable natural resources, creates an environmental nightmare and there is a dwindling supply. Is there anyone that thinks this is a long-term viable solution any more? I certainly do not! The recent mess where oil has gone from $10-$40 only emphasizes how little supply is really available. To rely on this power solution will only ensure a collapse of a society… Just a matter of when. A transition away from this form of power must be immediate. Dwindling supplies will only increase the cost unless alternatives are found.
Nuclear Sources
What are you crazy??? They have demonstrated their impacts already… Just waiting for the next disaster. 
Plant Sources
To burn plants for fuel does not make sense. They can be used for much more productive uses. “Burning” for power will create problems even if it is as slow as global warming and should be avoided where possible. Besides we need these sources to enrich our current soil without chemicals.
Geo-Thermal Sources
Taking heat generated from the ground is a great power source as long as we only take heat from the first 1km or less of earth. If we start going deeper for thermal sources I have concerns about eventually lowering the earth’s core or creating a man-made catastrophe. Countries like Iceland where this source of power is everywhere are showing us how to benefit. They have so much extra heat they heat roads and sidewalks in cities. No one has a hot water heater in their house, hot water comes direct from city water. They also use it to generate electrical power. Unfortunately not many countries have the abundance that Iceland has but this concept can be applied in every country.
Wind Sources
The next 3 of these were used thousands of years ago to harness power but somehow we got sold on the “cheaper” bang for the buck in oil. Wind is infinitely renewable and has no known environmental impact. It does have some draw backs… You need wind to generate power, the current wind mill is not pretty and consumes real estate. I have often wondered why no one has created a fan similar to venting fans you see on house roofs. It would seem to be a more effective solution to catch cross flowing winds. Used with solar or water sources makes a complete solution. 
Solar Sources
Solar is infinitely renewable and has no known environmental impact. It does have one draw back… You need sun. As technology improves this solution will certainly become common place. Used with wind or water sources makes a complete solution. 
Water Sources
Water is infinitely renewable and has no known environmental impact. It does have one draw back… You need constant flowing water. The problem is not in the power source but our implementations to harness it. Large power plants like Niagra Falls and super damns should be a thing of the past. They were implemented so only certain people would control power. We need to integrate into the environment to obtain our needs, use the natural flow of water, not force it. As technology improves this solution will certainly become common place. Good water flow can make a complete solution by itself.
Lightning Sources
The power of lightning is awesome. Working on ways to harness this power would seem to be a worthwhile adventure. Creating a world net that draws power from lightning could in itself provide all the power the world needs in the foreseeable future. This has the potential that usage of power is promoted rather than conservation(at least for a while ;-) ). Only concern is that we might draw too much electricity and somehow our planet becomes negatively charged.

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