Richard Wright said:
What I am really finding interesting about these past few polls is what popular media has done to people's perceptions of the energy problem and what is possible. The use of a buzzword by a trade group like "Clean Coal" gets repeated a few times and it sounds like it must be a recognized industry standard, like Energy Star or something, despite the fact it simply does not exist. A few loud assertions of "More drilling is needed" and the impression is there are proven reserves nearby able to meet our needs in the near future, when there aren't and nothing would show up for a decade or more, anyway. And on the alternative side, we are given the impression wind farms will cure all. In reality, they have a lot of limits on where they will work, and when they generate power. Solar, likewise, has real limits to it's practicality based on when and where it will work, regardless of technical limitations. Nuclear is touted as a source of inexhaustible power, when scale up is a massive industrial undertaking, and it has limits on power generation since it needs water to reject waste heat. And listening to the recent Governors' conference as one after another suggested get rich quick schemes for pet interests in their states as potential solutions tells why.
There is a gold rush to be had for expensive power. There isn't so much in saying "build houses like they were in the 1850s, and didn't require artificial climate control for the bulk of their heating and cooling requirements.". That would mean answers like living close to where you work in a home with features like walls with thermal mass to stabilize temperatures and wide porches and eaves to keep the summer sun off.
There isn't any discussion about how our ancestors were already pursuing what was easiest to make work. It's because you can't make a killing on it. But that would be what we wanted- to be less at the mercy of energy prices, isn't it?
Clean Coal. Clean Coal. Clean Coal. OK, so I used a buzzword, that's not bad in itself. Conservation is neither sexy nor powerful enough to get the political power brokers involved; just the grassroots. Conservation can also never offset the need for new energy supplies. The frustrations of that reality make the worst of the ECO types promote mass reductions in population... that wasn't mentioned either. In 1850 heating with wood was an option; is it now? There were ~1.3 billion people in the world and ~26 million in North America then; now there are ~6.6 billion and ~320 million respectively.
For the record I insulated my 1999 home with Icynene foam, in hind sight closed cell would have been better, and live 2 miles from work. My wife worked with me there for 5 years but now drives all over the place as a temp. Hard to fix that with a new home location... and building when not necessary is wasteful too. Living like the 1850s would require a much slower pace of life and much less comfort for everyone except the most elite and a huge hit against the toys of our favorite hobby.
I agree, there are multiple down sides to each energy source. Wind is land hungry, inefficient, ugly and interferes with micro climate air flow. Solar is very land intense and production of panels is polluting. Geothermal is very expensive, can be disruptive of geological dynamics (earthquakes), and has low yield in inactive zones. Dams destroy ECO systems so they are frowned on now. They also MAKE ecosystems but that is ignored by many. Nuclear had an option with breeder reactors but THAT debate brought out all kinds of boogie men. Fear of all boogie men is cutting us off at the knees. Ethanol is horrible land use and disruptive to food supply. Oil drilling is fairly short term solution given known supplies.
Global warming is now first a political movement and secondly a climate theory. The impact of the theory is not foregone but the dynamics of the political power struggle are obvious. Theoretical models are trotted out as gospel yet the keep changing to reflect new facts. But politically, global warming is embraced because it is heresy to dismiss it. The last information I read states we can expect higher rainfall everywhere and a better environment for growth of vegetation if average temps rise permanently. Worst case, even if seas rise the deserts will become fertile again.
Coal is a current option that can be made better. Closed loop energy systems are the only sustainable option otherwise we are messing with one system or another in planetary dynamics. Then again, if we don't truly understand the nature of climatic stability we can't determine if it is out of control.
"I know engineers. They love to change things."
- Leonard McCoy (Star Trek: The Motion Picture)