The world needs to wean itself off oil and other fossil fuels, for three main reasons:
- supply is diminishing and we need to replace the existing infrastructure and systems with new technology before they run out;
- they are a major cause of atmospheric pollution, which is causing temperature extremes, droughts, flooding, severe storms, species loss and toxicity in our food supply;
- they are often inconveniently located, which leads to conflict and inflated prices.
Nuclear fission is much too dangerous, and should be retired as a technology as soon as possible, before a serious accident occurs.
Some people are trying to push for space solar power (SSP). While this is indeed a viable option for energy production, as a member of many space advocacy groups I strongly suspect that the main reason for this push is because advocates believe that SSP will be a catalyst for space development and the space industry, which they have a passionate interest in, as do I. However, unlike my friends in these groups, I do not see SSP as the answer to our energy problems. It will require too large an investment and there are superior alternatives.
If there were no other options I would think differently, however, there are actually many – it’s just that they aren’t as ‘sexy’ and hence don’t receive the same press. I believe we need to look at these more realistic options first.
- Solar. While solar has been slow to develop, new developments by Nanosolar (printed rolls of solar fabric) and MIT (efficient storage of solar energy using hydrogen and oxygen) means that solar energy is now significantly more practical and economical.
- Wind. This is currently the most economical form of energy production on the planet. We can develop MIT’s new technology to also store wind energy as hydrogen and oxygen, thus making it, too, considerably more viable even in moderately windy areas.
- Wave and tidal.
- Geothermal energy.
- Nuclear fusion (both hot and cold).
- Zero-point energy.
I have ordered these from most practical to least, in the short-term. With solar and wind, energy storage has always been the problem – but now this problem is virtually solved with new battery technology and other energy storage solutions.
We live on a planet:
- that is close to its sun;
- has a molten core;
- and a large satellite.
Each of these features means abundant free energy. Compared to practically any other world in the universe, this is a dream planet for energy production. There’s no reason to develop complex space-based technology to obtain abundant energy resources. Any funds that to be allocated for energy research should go towards solar, wind, tidal and geothermal energy, energy storage, and hydrogen fuel cells for cars.