TMCNet:  A Better World: Energy breakthroughs [Florida Times Union]

[March 21, 2013]

A Better World: Energy breakthroughs [Florida Times Union]

(Florida Times Union Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) We're already living in an age of abundance that we take for granted. Take electronic devices.

About 2 billion people on Earth are connected to the Internet. It's going to be 5 billion by 2020. With information being shared at that supersonic speed, it means dramatic changes.

Twenty years ago a typical American owned a camera, a video recorder, a CD player, a stereo, a video game console, a cell phone, a watch, an alarm clock, a set of encyclopedias, a world atlas and more.

Now all of those come standard on a smart phone.

Or take natural gas in the United States. We thought the age of fossil fuels was finished, but now America is ready to start exporting natural gas, which contains far fewer carbon elements than coal, the dominant fuel used in power plants.


Now we have a chance for an easier transition to a carbon-free fuel mix.

Many of these positive trends are documented in the book, "Abundance: The Future is Better than You Think" by Peter Diamandis and Steven Kotler.

Diamandis gained fame by running bold competitions like the X Prize, which awarded $10 million for private manned spaceflight.

"The world is actually getting better at an extraordinary, accelerated rate," Diamandis said in an interview in Reason magazine.

He notes the dramatic increase in lifespan, the drop in infant mortality and the worldwide increase in income.

The current force for hope is technology, which is increasing at geometric rates.

Now with crowdsourced funding, the do-it-yourself inventor can rally funding himself.

Diamandis says that once we harness solar energy, all bets are off. "We have 6,000 times more solar energy that hits the Earth than we consume," he says. Once that happens, the Earth will have a surplus of energy.GAME-CHANGERS Through technology we can provide education online that defeats the high cost of college.

"History is littered with tales of once-rare resources made plentiful by innovation," Diamandis wrote. "For the first time in history, our capabilities have begun to catch up with our ambition." For instance, how about biofuels from algae, producing 30 times more productivity than conventional biofuels Nuclear power is moving to a fourth-generation plant that will be able to use waste as a fuel, shut down passively, require less maintenance, be built on a smaller scale and won't use fuel that can be turned into bombs.

An abundance of energy means that clean water could be available worldwide. THIRD WORLD IMPACTS In Africa, people have skipped landlines and gone straight to cellphones.

"Right now a Masai warrior with a cell phone has better mobile phone capabilities than the president of the United States did just 25 years ago," Diamandis wrote.

And a smart phone with access to Google gives him more information than the president just 15 years ago.

Now imagine an energy grid connected in much the same way. If all of our devices that use energy were connected for maximum efficiency there would be incredible power savings.

A "smart grid" can do for energy what the Internet did for information, All in all, Diamandis noted that for the first time in history we will be able to raise the basic standards of living for everyone on the planet.

Dreams and possibilities are available to everyone.

Even farming can be transformed. Diamandis writes about "plant factories," vertical farms that radically increase farm output. Now it must be noted that there always are unexpected issues with any new technology. But let's not let them dissuade us from pursuing them.

As Diamandis writes, the world's basic equation is not a zero- sum game. Everyone can have opportunities now.QUOTABLEArthur C. Clarke's evolution of a great idea:- "It's crazy, it will never work."- "It might work, but it's not worth doing."- "I told you it was a great idea all along."Clarke was a noted science fiction writer famous for the story behind the movie "2001: A Space Odyssey." (c) 2013 ProQuest Information and Learning Company; All Rights Reserved.

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