Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.
I'm not sure I agree with this bit:
[BLOCKQUOTE] Under the best circumstances we will reorganize our society and economy at a lower level of energy use (and probably a lower scale of governance, too). The catch is, it will have to be a whole lot lower. I think we'll be very lucky fifty years from now to have a few hours a day of electricity to do things with.[/BLOCKQUOTE]

I think that energy use will be precipitously lower no matter which future we receive. But even in Kunstler's worst prognosis, the current increases in energy efficiency and production should allow more than 'a few hours of electricity a day'. LED lighting, time-pulsed fridges, low-energy laptops and potentially memristors should mean that the bare essentials will take a fraction of the power we use today.

Advances in solar, wind, geothermal and marine are increasing exponentially, with huge capacity increases nad price decreases approaching. Storage technology is also improving (although it could be more advanced). Barring utter collapse of all manufacturing across the entire world for a decade, I can't see these new technologies not being widely available.

That means lighting, computer access and food storage should be available at least 18 hours a day (10 hours of sun, 8 hours of wind), with brownouts probable during days without natural resources. Desert installations of solar thermal (with 24 hour storage from molten salt), goethermal installations, tidal and energy storage improvements should help with this even in worst case scenarios.

The biggest challenges efficiency-wise (ignoring luxury items) are transportation, cooking and internet servers. Those are the three things I think are hardest to provide for in a low-energy/resources scenario.

I think some of the world could end up like Kunstler predicts, in particular badly run countries and/or countries with little solar/wind/marine resources (although pretty much everywhere can use geothermal if drilling tech improves). His idea of a completely collapsed society of dirt farmers is simplistic and too homogenised - there are resources both natural and human that will keep technology around.

I agree with a lot of his comments about what's wrong with today's society but find his predictions are too dismissive of human ingenuity and the natural resources we are already beginning to exploit. Our future won't be dystopic but patchy, with some regions perhaps falling back to lower standards of living as they fail to adapt and those regions who invest in energy-efficient infrastructure and renewable energy struggling but succeeding in having a dynamic economy and society, if different from today's.

by darrkespur on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 09:40:00 AM EST
[ET Moderation Technology™] Please use actual HTML tags with angle brackets such as <blockquote>

A vivid image of what should exist acts as a surrogate for reality. Pursuit of the image then prevents pursuit of the reality -- John K. Galbraith
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 09:47:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah sorry about that, got my brackets mixed up.
by darrkespur on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 10:16:25 AM EST
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"The biggest challenges efficiency-wise (ignoring luxury items) are transportation, cooking and internet servers. Those are the three things I think are hardest to provide for in a low-energy/resources scenario."

I was under the impression that the energy used for building heating, ventilation, and air conditioning was a significant "low hanging fruit." Relatively small changes in the way buildings are constructed and used could have a huge impact.

For example, in older buildings (e.g. high-end American houses built in the 1930s) there was frequently no arrangement at all for heat in the main entrance hall, staircase, or upstairs hall. But our new McMansions are usually built on open floor plans where the bedrooms and hallways and living rooms and dining rooms all merge together into one big space. Some fairly minor adjustments can be made to this arrangement without too much difficulty--just add some partitions and you can cut your heating bill by 1/3...

by asdf on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 09:58:23 AM EST
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I'd agree with that. Heating isn't such a big problem - I read that some newhouses in cold parts of Germany are heated purely by the body heat of the people living there and clever uses of insulation. I'm sick to death of the houses where I live in Bristol, UK, which can't have their old wooden sash windows  replaced because of planning regulations. Personally I think a building that leaks heat like a torpedoed boat doesn't deserve to be kept that way on aesthetical grounds (these are terraced homes hundreds of years old)

Despite such idiocies in planning councils, I think insulation can fix a lot heating problems. It's heat for cooking (ovens, hot plates, kettles) I worry about - natural gas is no answer, coal and wood creates supply problems and electrical is pretty power hungry.

Similarly transportation and internet servers (I think internet access of a decent speed is fast becoming an important human neccessity for both business and education) consume a lot of energy that will be difficult to replace.

by darrkespur on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 10:23:15 AM EST
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Servers can run on batteries for a while. Transportation can be done very effectively by electrified rail. That leaves cooking. But cooking is hardly time-critical - if one day you happen to not have power to spend on the kitchen, you can always eat cold food.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Wed Oct 29th, 2008 at 12:33:18 PM EST
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What's the problem with electricity for cooking?
by asdf on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 08:52:13 AM EST
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It requires a lot of energy, simply because heat is energy. If you're trying to have a home with very little energy use, it's hard to reduce the amount of energy used to cook something, for what I can see.
by darrkespur on Thu Oct 30th, 2008 at 03:38:09 PM EST
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