Saturday, June 28, 2008

Fossil Fuel

The energy state of the world makes depressing reading! Hermann Scheer's Autonomous Energy crossed my path the last time I went to the library ... I wonder if we are going to save the planet! Well, actually the planet's in not much danger, it'll still be here. We won't. Or not many of us. I keep wondering if we're going to behave like we do in John Wyndham's The Kraken Wakes. In that apocalyptic novel the world buried its head in the sand till most of it was buried in water. The resulting population fall would be perfect, from Nature's point of view.

I think it's the fact that Scheer puts it all in terms of politics. It seems heart-rendingly senseless that millions of poor people are hunting for firewood with the sun beating down upon their backs, pouring free energy down onto them. When I think of that poor woman I saw in National Geographic last month, hacking up roots to burn for fuel in the deserts around the refugee camps of Darfur, with her toddler tied to her back ... what would it really cost to put a Photovoltaic cell on each roof worldwide, feeding an electric cooker and lights? Think of all the respiratory miseries that could be avoided ... the forests that would still clothe the globe. Bet it would cost less than will be spent this year on the never ending, never yielding anything, thankless quest for nuclear energy that nobody needs.

Many years ago my uncle  - a climate researcher since 1979 - pointed out to me that the least efficient solar panel converts energy at 22% efficiency. All the energy in fossil fuels was fixed by chlorophyll at 1% efficiency. Now I find that the sun delivers 15,000 times as much energy as we need to every point on the planet for free! Every minute of every day! I discover that scientists in 1922 were warning us off fossil fuels! 

Then a quick search on the internet discovers people who bought a house in the English countryside with the aim of getting energy self sufficient in 2006 gave up in the face of government intransigence and sold it in January 2008. See: 
That's horrifying. The whole entrenched energy business that continues to keep selling us stuff we really don't need and politicking us out of the power to change our energy habits. Why on earth are we sucking stuff out of the ground we need to stand on, and burning it to create all sorts of nastiness, when God's pouring clean energy down on us for free? Who can seriously believe that we have the power to split the atom and we can't develop the technology to capture enough solar and wind power to run industries? We're burning up the earth cos some of us can make money out of it. That is the sheer and simple truth. Moreover we are now dying for the privilege of so spending our money.

That joke about how they got us to switch to using disposable nappies (by telling us were too stupid to use re-useable ones - so complicated!) is very true about petrol, gas, coal and nuclear fission & fusion. Shell & BP are getting us to use them by telling us we're too stupid not to. Oh, the sheer selfishness.

Last week I read Animal's People, all about the gas tragedy in Bhopal, India. See Why as humans are we so helpless in the face of selfishness? Bhopal reminded me of nothing so much as the Titanic, in the concatenation of neglectful evils that met that night in 1984. The horror of it since, though ... how can people keep buying Dow Chemical stocks? Why don't they just move the population, just make it stop? It's 23 years since, for God's sake. It really would be easier to fix it than to keep explaining why not. Just make it stop. Even one child gassed was too much, let alone the hundred thousand since.

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