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Clean Power Unicorn Tears, An Approved Hippie Energy Source

Published on August 24th, 2011 | by Bob Higgins

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Fire, Water, Wind or Sunshine, a Watt is a Watt

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August 24th, 2011 by
 

Unicorn Tears, An Approved Hippie Energy Source

Unicorn Tears As An Energy Source?

I sometimes think that many of us have a deep-seated mania that causes us to believe that for a substance to be an effective source of energy it must be something that can be burned. Not only must it be combustible, the substance must be hard to get. This manic belief requires that the energy source must be searched out and dug up or clawed from the earth at great trouble and expense.

What’s more, to be a credible source, the fuel must be retrieved from the bowels of the earth or the deepest depths of the ocean in an odyssey by intrepid explorers with fedoras and a five day growth of manly stubble, all else is considered to be alchemy.

“We know that renewable energies like solar and wind at this point in time are not capable of addressing the world’s total energy demands.” The Remarkable Energy Potential of Methane Hydrate from Clean Technica by Glenn Meyers

Not to single out a fellow writer here at Clean Technica, I’ve heard and read similar statements many times but the fact that they grossly distort the reality of the potential energy sources all around us does make them nettlesome. Actually we “know” no such thing.

I don’t know where this belief comes from or how it got started, maybe it’s primal. It could be an archetype, lodged early in the human mind, left over from the terror, fascination, even trauma, when some guy with a five-day stubble first dragged a burning branch from a lightning struck tree back to the cave for a mastodon roast.

Lightning strikes had to be hard to find even then, so the fire that made that long ago mastodon buffet so tasty and the damp and dark old cave so toasty and bright became a precious commodity, bringing about the birth of the intrepid fire finders… and the fedora.

Not too long ago a reader responded to something I wrote about renewable energy by writing that solar, wind, and all the other hippie forms of energy, like unicorn tears, just don’t have the kick, the raw power of fossil fuels, that swift punch in the belly of a good fission reaction.

I recognized the macho energy syndrome and wrote in reply that a watt is a watt, no matter the source that produces it, the kick is the same. I also pointed out that when hippies use a unicorn as a source of power they ignore the tears and move to the other end of the unicorn in their search for combustibles. I haven’t heard back from the guy, I hope he took it well.

Following the leadership of the giant multinational oil conglomerates and the governments they own is affecting our perspective, our ability to think rationally about energy. Maybe this belief in the machismo of combustibles, fossil fuels, and explosions of all kinds arose more recently, perhaps it began somewhere deep in the bowels of the PR departments of the energy industry. Yes, that’s it, portray the conquering heroes scouring the far reaches of the planet, braving every danger to produce the power to brew our cappuccino.

Reddy Kilowatt in a fedora rides to the rescue.

Every watt that we add to the grid from renewables is one less watt we need from fossil fuels and the watts are being added daily. Just as our existing energy infrastructure wasn’t built overnight, the clean renewable energy of our future will be added one wind or solar farm at a time.

It’s happening all over the world, hundreds of megawatts of renewable energy are being added to the grid yearly, from wind, solar, tidal and other sources in countries from China to Germany and Spain, and from Mexico to Brazil. The technology and resources exist, now. We can, we are “at this point in time”…capable of addressing the world’s total energy demands” with renewables.

Efficiency and economies of scale will follow as will new and improved technologies and challenges, as was true of the long process of building our old, dangerous, planet-killing energy system. As we proceed, the pace of replacement will quicken and the costs will come down. Even the US military has quietly shifted its emphasis to green energy as it has quietly recognized global warming as a serious threat to national security.

We no longer have to claw through the ancient muck at the bottom of the ocean, drill miles into the earth, remove the mountaintops, destroy our water supplies through fracking, or scrape the very hide off the earth to warm our pop tarts or cool our Jagerbombs.

We also don’t need to waste our time and resources searching for new things to burn, looking for lightning strikes ever farther from the cave while despoiling more of the planet and likely killing ourselves in the process.

We just need to start following the right leaders, and the guys with the burning sticks ain’t it anymore.

Photo: Domenichino [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

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About the Author

Lifelong liberal of the Tom Paine wing. Marine Vietnam vet. Have worked as a photographer, cab driver, bartender, carpenter, cabinetmaker, writer and editor. Now retired on a Veterans Disability program I spend my time writing, and complaining about politics and the environment.



  • Pingback: Fire, Water, Wind or Sunshine, a Watt is a Watt « Bob Higgins

  • Pingback: Why Some Think Fossil Fuels are the Only Real Source of Energy (Reader Comment) | CleanTechnica

  • Breath on the Wind

    Nice article Bob. Just a few points.

    Reaching out, to try and understand someone who feels that fossil fuels provide a “kick,” it is easy enough to correct this and appreciate that fossil fuels are a more dense source of watts than sun or wind. Nature, time and gravity concentrated fossil fuels. We must concentrate the sun and wind with area: more wind turbines and a larger space for solar. Of course when we consider the area taken up by mining, processing and transportation of fossil fuels there may be some balance.

    Fossil fuels also have an advantage of inexpensive storage that we attempt to emulate with electricity directly, compressed air, thermal and chemical energy storage.

    With respect to the military, I have never seen any official reference to any military opinion on climate change. There are however comments about approaching peak oil which they are extremely concerned about: http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2010/apr/11/peak-oil-production-supply and http://cleantechnica.com/2010/09/17/peak-oil-this-year-leaked-german-military-report-says/

    We can argue about the reasons for climate change. Some might insist that high fuel prices are only due to greedy speculation, but if we come again to a time when there is simply no fuel at the pumps, people will demand electric cars and electricity to supply them. If at that time the electricity can be more cheaply supplied with the sun than the Earth then this is where we will go.

  • Origo1

    Water is our only source of portable, renewable fuel available in the huge quantities needed to supplant gasoline and diesel oil. Water is carbon-free, is non-flammable, does not consume atmospheric oxygen, nor does it pollute the atmosphere. Water requires no investment in exploration, drilling, mining, refining, transportation, service stations, or disposal of coal fly ash or nuclear waste. I have developed two concepts that utilize water as a fuel, both of which are in the public domain. The details are in a book that I wrote.
    One concept uses a photocatalyst and light to dissociate water into hydrogen and oxygen onboard motor vehicles. Burning hydrogen in oxygen produces water. By recycling the water byproduct, vehicles will have unlimited range. Hydrogen can be burned in purpose-built internal combustion engines, so Detroit would not have to change much in their IC engines. Vehicles with fuel cells and electric motors can also use this system.
    The second concept combines the physics of diesel, steam, and Stirling engines. I have sent this concept to ARPA-E–Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy of the U.S. Dept. of Energy. No word yet from them. I am working on yet another concept the uses water as a fuel, but the concept is not yet complete.
    Origo

  • Anonymous

    Where the belief started was probably based on the reality of the time at which it originated. If we go back even a couple decades wind turbines were still somewhat crude and we hadn’t grasped the fact that the wind does not rise and fall at the same time over modest geographic areas. Solar was very much too expensive and batteries were not capable of giving us usable electric vehicles. (If you’ll allow me to bring in another antiquated myth.)

    Many people have not kept up with the technological advances that have made wind turbines major producers of electricity, solar affordable, and EVs a reality. If one does not know what is possible they will find it easiest to support what worked in the past.

    Other people have personal or financial reasons to support ‘old tech’. Clearly fossil fuel interests push the idea that we could not operate our grid without their flaming inputs. Nuclear engineers fight for inclusion of their technology because if we build no more reactors then they are going to have to retool themselves.

    Fossil fuels and nuclear energy have very deep pockets. They can flood the zone with inaccuracies and spread doubt about the ability of renewable energy to do the job. They can hire armies of lobbyists and make hefty campaign contributions. They can enlist the aid of their buddies in other industries.

    It’s going to be hard to fight through these myths, but it’s starting to happen.

    • Anonymous

      Jeez, Bob, this could very quickly and easily be turned into a short op-ed. :D Interested? :D

      • http://bobhiggins.wordpress.com/ Bob Higgins

        Zach

        Sure, what do you have in mind ?

        Bob

    • http://bobhiggins.wordpress.com/ Bob Higgins

      The fossil fuel and nuclear industries not only can spread disinformation about the safety of their particular industries they do it with a vengeance .

      They spend hundreds of millions lobbying and bribing every federal and state legislator they can find by turning over every rock at every cocktail party in every capitol in the country.

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