The history of our society has, in many (most?) ways, been the history of our energy. Everything hinges on it, in a sense more crucial than politics or policy: It’s physics, man! You wanna have cool stuff? You wanna make things happen in the world, like overthrow Middle Eastern dictators or move coffee beans across oceans or make shiny iPods? You need energy!
So this long-ish but very clear, very engaging piece by Caltech professor David Goodstein is required reading. He explains “peak oil,” a concept I hadn’t ever heard of before; he argues that an oil crisis is inevitable, and may happen soon-ish; he lays out the energy options before us, again including many I hadn’t ever heard of; and finally talks about the future:
As things stand today, the only possible substitutes for our fossil-fuel dependency are light from the sun and nuclear energy. Developing a way of running a civilization like ours on those resources is an enormous challenge. A great deal of it is social and political — we’re in the midst of a presidential election, and have you heard either party say a word about this extremely important subject? But there are also huge technical problems to be solved. So, you might well ask, what can Caltech do to help?
And the answer to that question may lie… in the spheromak.
Goodstein also mentions that Caltech’s provost recently stepped down to become Chief Scientist at BP. And that just seems somehow totally awesome to me, you know?
Thanks to worldchanging for the link.