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Alternate Energy Predictions

James Hansen's Prediction:

"It is extremely irresponsible, in my opinion, to make the assumption that efficiency and renewables are all that will be needed" (Storms, 2009). We will need fast breeder reactors, and fortunately we have "$50 trillion" worth of left-over uranium for fuel.

Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air, by David MacKay

Global energy policy should rely heavily on the market to pick winning technologies. But economists often overdo their trust in the market, perhaps because they are not so comfortable with physics. David MacKay, the UK's chief scientist on energy and climate change, is supremely comfortable with physics and the physics of sustainable energy in particular.

His book Sustainable Energy without the Hot Air is a delight to read and by far the best book available if you want to know what are likely options are for a post-fossil world. Although the book does a wonderful job of simplifying the physics, it is still full of equations. If you've had a year of college physics, you'll be delighted with how much he accomplishes with so little effort. If you are allergic to math, its not hard to skip it and just read his witty prose. You will still learn most of what is really important.

In particular you will learn that nuclear and solar power are the only two real options for a fairly complete global energy transition. And if you live in England, you can pretty much forget solar, unless you want to import it from North Africa. The US has plenty of room in its deserts for solar, so it has a choice. Of course carbon capture and storage might come to the rescue of fossil fuels, but this cannot be counted on the way we can count on solar and nuclear.

The book deliberately stays away from cost estimates, so it does not tell us about what path we should take on our way to the nuclear-solar endgame. But for a country like England, knowing the endgame is quite important because neither nuclear nor remote solar can be left strictly to the market.

You can download his book for free, but if you actually want to read a fair bit of it, do yourself a favor and get the handsome paper copy.


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