All About Energy — Age Of Abundance, Productional Flameout, Or Grid Collapse?

::: by blues :::

— | 1.0 | —What, From A Human Perspective, Is “Energy”?

The famous physicist Michio Kaku, who produces endless Internet videos, claims we are headed for a fabulous “Age of Abundance.” Others such as the famous trends forecaster Gerald Celente advise us to “Prepare for the Worst.” And it could go either way in the long run. In the short run, due to political insanity (we don’t have machine-free simple score voting), things are looking rather bad. I am not going to talk much about “economics,” — astrology or “sexology” would be much more interesting, wouldn’t they? I will talk about energy and productionality. Productionality is simply the making of desirable stuff. It always requires some form of energy.

Everybody has at least a rudimentary idea of what energy (in the physics sense) is. But there is “focused” and “diffuse” energy. A typical room lamp emits relatively diffuse energy, as it spreads its light all over the room. A laser usually emits more focused energy, as its light can be concentrated upon a single spot. I guess you could say that the “focality” of an energy source is equivalent to the intensity of heat that it can produce in a particular place. It appears that diffuse energy can be transformed into more focused energy at a cost, presumably of energy.

There is also “stored energy” (or “potential energy”) and “active energy.” A kerosene generator uses energy stored in kerosene to produce electricity, an active form of energy, while a windmill generator uses active energy of moving air to do so. Stored energy is “available on demand,” while active energy is “available on occasion.” However, active energy can generally be converted into stored energy in various ways.

Energy is intimately involved in the processes of productionality: the making of useful things. The active energy of sunlight is needed to grow potatoes, for example (although the potato is actually a source of stored energy). However there are forms of embedded energy that generally cannot be converted into active energy. For example, it has been noted that the quantity of active energy required to build an automobile is roughly equivalent to the active energy (derived from energy stored as gasoline) it will utilize over its average expected lifespan. So an automobile contains a vast amount of embedded energy. In fact the production of goods may be described as the operation of transforming active energy into embedded energy. Therefor, planned obsolescence, or planned disposability (plus over-packaging) is perhaps the greatest waste of human-utilized energy.

/Addendum/Use of the term “embedded energy” is actually inapt. It’s a bit odd to suppose that an automobile “contains embedded energy” since the energy expended in its production has long since dissipated, mostly as heat. It would be more accurate to state that it “contains energy expenditure.”

— | 2.0 | —The Nightmare Of Grid Collapse

The worst kind of “grid collapse” would not be a continent-wide technical failure of the electric grid, although that could be very bad indeed. The worst would be the result of a massive solar coronal mass ejection, which could generate a powerful electromagnetic pulse (EMP) that might well burn out nearly all electronic and electrical devices. A very-easy- to-perpetrate high-altitude nuclear explosion, or perhaps a half dozen small high-altitude nuclear explosions could bring about the same result.

Everything more complex than spoons and forks is operated via electronic controls these days. This includes TVs, computers, all lighting except oil lanterns and candles, refrigerators, electric pumps in home heating systems, pumps that supply water, automobiles, delivery trucks… just about everything we use and require to survive. No more trucks would be delivering food, which could not be harvested anyway. Nearly everyone would freeze to death, die of thirst, or starve. But… it gets much worse.

Nuclear power plants and their spent fuel water pools need to be cooled for about five years, currently by electric water pumps (which have back-up diesel generators). We should be aware by now that virtually every information outlet has been deceiving us about the Fukushima melt-down, which is probably more than three times worse than the Chernobyl disaster. At least four reactor units at Fukushima have been spewing many radioactive substances into the air, ocean, and soil since March 11th, 2011. I would guess that the background atomic radiation in the northern hemisphere is perhaps twice what it was before this event occurred. Now that was just from the loss of cooling for about four reactor units. There are now more than 400 nuclear power plants in our world. If their electric pumps burn out due to an EMP event, it is likely that nothing on earth could live for the following one billion years. Those electric pumps could be replaced with simple kerosene diesel directly-powered pumps, but that would cost a bit of money. Five years worth of kerosene would have to be kept on hand, and it would have to be guarded. The ruling class obviously has a different perspective than most of the rest of us.

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