What price is your children's future worth?

Ask any family with children or grandchildren what they want for the future and the almost certain answer you get is "We want the kids to have it better than we do."

If you press for further information, "better" turns out to mean economically better off and better educated, or (in many second and third world countries) free to be part of the political solutions (as opposed to being peasants and thus ignored).

Afaik, this human desire is both universal and overwhelming — adults will undergo serious hardships and severe risks to make this possible for their children. [Boat people from Haiti and Cuba demonstrate the level of risks adults will take for this goal.]

Yesterday [March 2nd], a squib in the Investor’s Business Daily pointed out that the 40% efficient solar cell technology demonstrated in Dec. ’07 requires iridium to manufacture. 2008 world demand for iridium was about 10% of the entire known world supply, without any going for solar energy. It follows that the 40% efficient solar cell is a technology that can’t supply world energy needs.

Solar cells are thus reliant on the old 25% efficient technology — which isn’t near enough to make solar energy competitive with fossil fuels. [The shortfall is about 25% of output — meaning that a 25% subsidy would be theoretically required AFTER the technology is scaled up several million times to produce significant output.]

So the solar energy effort needs tens to hundreds of billions in research money and is, thus, in the same situation as fusion power — huge research spending required for what may continue to be zero economically useful output.

The ideal situation that the green movement is aiming at is local production of locally consumed energy. This requires that the energy density of production [output per square foot of land area] be several times the energy density of consumption. {You can’t use all the land area for energy production because you need some of it for other uses such as food production and normal development uses.]

This will be easiest where the density of energy consumption is lowest — which is single family residential housing. In other words, it will be possible for the middle class long before it is possible for lower income people [who live in apartments and condos with higher density of energy consumption]. And that will happen before such efforts are practical for even higher energy density uses like offices, retail space, and industrial firms.

Since it isn’t practical now and likely won’t be for decades [you can’t command technology to come up with wholly new inventions — if we could, fusion power would be real already and there would be nothing to discuss here], the need for energy supplied to high density users makes it imperative that power transmission and distribution systems exist and be expanded. [population is expanding, as well as energy consumption per person — these are both part of the "good life" that families say is the overriding goal for their children.]

"Conservation" amounts to saying that your children won’t have the chance to be better off than you are now. This is so because the rate of improvement in energy efficiency is both small [3% per year historical average in America] and not subject to huge improvements for long periods [the same problem with commanding inventions to be made occurs — breakthrough science can’t be commanded, only searched for].

{Aside: expandable "green" energy sources in America amount to 1/2 of 1 percent of total energy used. That’s one part in 200. Quadrupling "green" energy output won’t even keep up with growth in total demand, which runs three to four percent per year due to the combination of higher population (the next generation of adults has already been born, so the barn door here can’t be closed) and higher energy usage per person [higher energy usage is a prime driver of better life styles — your computers and cell phones and iPod use energy].

This brings us back to producing more energy with either fossil fuels — which requires more drilling and mining somewhere in the world [either here or in foreign nations], or else clearing the roadblocks and building more nuclear power plants.

35 new nuclear power plants by 2030 … essentially Republican John McCain’s campaign platform … would be only enough to stabilize the amounts of energy produced via fossil fuels in the US and not enough to actually reduce energy from burning coal, gasoline, and natural gas at all (no matter where they are mined or drilled).

Thus, the stark policy choice is: forcing our children and grandchildren to be worse off than we are ["conservation" and lowering output and incomes per family], or throwing the greens under the political bus and building a lot more nuclear power plants [together with more transmission lines and recycling spent nuclear fuel], or burning ever more fossil fuels from ever more mines and drilling.

The current
The current policy is akin to betting the family farm on a technological miracle invention that, after 50 years of spending tens of billions, fusion power hasn’t been able to produce.

Would you prefer to bet your children’s future on a miracle that likely won’t happen, or would you prefer to throw the greens under the political bus and build, mine, drill anyway??


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