Our high tech society cannot continue to waste energy, whether it be fossil fuels, nuclear, geothermal, hydro, wind, solar, or any of the alternate fuels proposed to replace fossil fuels. We need to overhaul everything from energy production to energy consumption. Even if we came up with a 100% efficient solar cell or a superbattery, we still have to deliver the electricity. We lose power through electrical line losses, then energy is wasted by inefficient products, and if your house isn’t well insulated you use even more electricity to cool or heat it.
The most efficient conventional electrical conductor is silver followed by copper. We use aluminum for most electrical transmission and for tremendous distances. So how much of electrical power is lost through line loss? We’d save a tremendous amount of fossil fuel just using superconductors. High temperature superconductors are the holy grail.
Darn. I lost everything I wrote after grail. I suggested we replace what we can with superconductors and I suspected that generators would be easier than transmission lines. And I was write. They are closer to reality, but they are a marginal improvement in efficiency only because modern generators are very efficient already. However, superconducting generators are smaller and would have a longer life.
I’ve let this post rest for a few days and I have this to add. We can leave things alone and let nature take it’s course. The problem will be solved one way or the other. I’d prefer one that doesn’t involve the collapse of civlization or the collapse of nature.
Americans can change their wasteful consumer ways and still enjoy a high standard of living. The world as a whole cannot sustain American style consumerism for everyone. Conservation starts at home. I’ve found a great podcast called The Lazy Environmentalist. His philosophy is that you don’t have to suffer to be eco-friendly and we can incorporate eco-friendly technologies into our lifestyles. Eventually we’ll have to take more drastic measures, but we can begin the transition now to reduce our environmental impact.