Monday, June 28, 2010

The challenge of energy sustainability

Today at the I-CAMP School in Brisbane, Dan Cox, Director of I2CAM gave a nice talk about climate change and future energy options.

Dan has taught an undergraduate course on such issues for the past 13 years at UC Davis. (Unfortunately, the course web page seems to be down right now).

He mentioned some really nice lectures on the same topic by Nate Lewis (Caltech)

A few things I found interesting.

Graphs of energy consumption vs. GDP tend to plateaus at high incomes. i.e, affluent countries can increase their "standard of living" without increasing their energy consumption. Japan and EU use about half the energy per capita of USA/Canada, yet have comparable standards of living.
Electricity consumption is 4 times greater in Wyoming than in California.

Oil is used almost 100% for transportation. Alternative electricity sources will not reduce dependence on Middle East oil without electric cars.

M. King Hubbert was a petroleum engineer who predicted world oil production would peak in 1970. The production rate is related to the derivative of the solution to the logistic differential equation, which describes many phenomena that initially increase exponentially until finite resources limit their growth.

[Aside there was actually a West Wing episode, The Hubbert Peak]

CO2 dissolving in ocean decreases pH and destroys coral. Even if global temperatures do not increase due to increased CO2, the increase in acidity of the oceans will wreak environmental havoc.

1 comment:

  1. "affluent countries can increase their 'standard of living' without increasing their energy consumption"

    I don't think so. Flying cars are going to take a lot of energy!

    We don't depend on Middle East oil, we just use it 'cause it's cheap!