Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Knowledge of Energy

As a fan of Hayek I'm always a sucker for an article premised on knowledge as power and the article linked below combines that passion with my abiding interest in energy and the use of cheap energy to raise billions out of poverty. The article alludes to a variety of advances on the energy front, but ultimately concludes truly disruptive breakthroughs remain elusive. The excerpt captures the essence of the article but readers interested in the topic will find much food for thought by reading the whole thing.

That bring us to the elephant in the room when we talk about the future of energy. Changes in the energy mix normally happen incrementally over long periods. But claims of catastrophic man-made global warming imply that we don't have time to wait. It's the reason we're told that the future of energy has to come now, which raises the risk of massive malinvestments that could end up achieving dramatic reductions in carbon dioxide emissions the only way that has really been demonstrated to work: crashing the economy.
Yet it may be time to accept that this zero-emissions future isn't going to happen. A few years back, Google cancelled its alternative energy "moonshot" because it projected that the cost of rebuilding the entire world's energy infrastructure would be too great, and that it would come too late to make a significant difference on projected global temperatures. Two of the Google engineers explained in detail why existing technology won't do the job, and they drew this conclusion:
"As we reflected on the project, we came to the conclusion that even if Google and others had led the way toward a wholesale adoption of renewable energy, that switch would not have resulted in significant reductions of carbon dioxide emissions. Trying to combat climate change exclusively with today's renewable energy technologies simply won't work; we need a fundamentally different approach."

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