Posts Tagged ‘alternate energy’

In Pursuit of Power

January 20, 2013


POWER. Everybody wants it. We use words that have it, we put them together into phrases that have it, we jockey for it and vie for it and pander to it. It seems there is never enough of it. – Is there anything we would not do to get and keep it?


I could go on: everyone wants to be empowered, to feel powerful, to show his/her power. On the other hand, nobody likes someone on a power trip, making a power grab or power-play, or just plain power-hungry.


Power in the past rested in the hands of the favored few. Royalty and nobility was passed through generations by right of birth, and wars have been waged, nations and peoples decimated, genocides attempted and accomplished, and all manner of woes inflicted, endlessly, in pursuit of power. The struggle goes on, today.


The bright side is that power has been responsible for the greatest advancements in human affairs that the world has ever seen. In the last one hundred years, petroleum power, coal (steam) power, hydraulic power, electric and atomic power, have given rise to human inventions and technology men only dreamed about a century ago.


And like power over nations and peoples, the energy to power our machines and gadgets is worth whatever must be done to obtain it: we bore into the earth for crude oil, transport it by truck, rail, or pipeline to our factories where we break it down, “refine it” and then spew the waste (the part that is difficult to harvest as fuel) into the air or burn it into other wastes before we do. We will strip mine coal that is never pure, to burn for the heat it produces, again belching the waste into the atmosphere as noxious smoke and leaving the earth torn and ravaged; we search for underground gases that when released to our service also seep into water supplies, damaging ecosystems and humans alike. For hydroelectric power we have built dams and created lakes out of rivers.;_ylt=AmveX8E14CsKyLcN.JfNSLQS.MwF;_ylu=X3oDMTQ2bTdpNTV2BG1pdANUb3BTdG9yeSBTY2llbmNlU0YgRW5lcmd5U1NGBHBrZwM2Yjg2NzM2OC00NWE2LTM1OWMtOTI5MC0wZTE4ZGU2YWVkYWUEcG9zAzEEc2VjA3RvcF9zdG9yeQR2ZXIDNWY2NjY5OTAtNWZiNi0xMWUyLWJlZmUtMzE1ZDMwNTQ3ZGFk;_ylg=X3oDMTFzMnBqYnA4BGludGwDdXMEbGFuZwNlbi11cwRwc3RhaWQDBHBzdGNhdANzY2llbmNlfGVuZXJneQRwdANzZWN0aW9ucw–;_ylv=3


Pipelines, high tension wires, great steel towers and cement block way stations dot the landscape, silent (well, not quite, if you count the hum of the wires and the gurgling in the pipes), testament to the power of mankind in his hunger for same.


We can speak into the telephone or type on our computer, and almost instantly a person on the opposite side of the globe can hear our voice or read our words. That is power!


Instead of living in tents, caves, and soddies, we can now build homes and businesses from the other bounties of our world: we quarry sand, gypsum, lime, copper, iron, zinc, graphite – on through the periodic table, to expand our arsenal of building materials. But unlike our ancestors, who were content to quarry indigenous stone, we rip and claw like the predators we are, taking out Earth’s power.


We destroy centuries-old forests for the wood to build our homes and make our paper products, and pay no heed to the other creatures living there. Travel a road in the mountains of the great Northwest. You can see acres and acres of new growth forests that have been planted in the wake of deforestation. What you do not see is the other side of the mountain, where there is no public road, so no one bothers to replant the devastation. The erosion and desolation spread out for miles. But the timber could be turned into power, and no one needs to know.



We are so powerful, we can even control the weather! – At least inside our buildings, we can. Our air conditioners collect the heat inside and ingeniously carry it outside, to be released into the air with all the other things we do not want. Our factories, machines of transport, smelters and processing plants belch tons of toxic waste into the air of the planet until its power to cope has been reached, overcome, and exceeded. But, there have been no consequences this long, so why should we worry now, at this late date?


Why, indeed? Our industry as it exists is well-established. Not everyone is getting rich and powerful from it, but the ones who are, are getting very much so: they control the resources, they have too much to lose if anything changes: where they going to invest? – Exactly: they are going to invest in maintaining the status quo.


So, what is to be done? Is it even possible to turn things around?


I do not know. It may already be too late. But I, for one, would rather go out trying, than to ignore the facts and idly watch it go on.


The technology to prevent – and now I hope, reverse – all of this – has existed for many years.


If the atmosphere is Terra’s skin, the ground is her muscle: heat pump technology transfers the heat from our climate control systems into the earth rather than the air, and then can release it back to us when we need it in the winter. Muscle is more sturdy than skin and more resilient; we have tried use it to dispose of some of our other wastes, but the ground stores and maintains most of our water supply, and if humans have needs, air and water fall high in the queue. Even plundering the earth for her power has backfired grievously upon us.


One of the reasons solar power has not proliferated is price: a simple, single family dwelling can cost as much as ten thousand dollars or more to become self-sufficient on solar. At one hundred dollars per month average for electricity it could take as long as a decade to recoup the investment. By then, some repairs or maintenance will be necessary, and those are likely to be expensive also.


Not much help, there…



One of my favorites, wind power, provides benefits solar does not. It is not often that the air is dead calm, day or night; together, the two might accomplish the task; both require banks of batteries and inverters to transform the direct current of the collectors and batteries into the safer and more common alternating current of the existing grids.


To my grief, I just read an article in the Daily Mail, detailing how the magnets required for commercial wind farms is ruining an area of China. It is unacceptable to destroy any ecosphere for the sake of another ecology. Until cleaner refining processes are found

for these ores, it appears wind is at a disadvantage.


But then, is it really? I cannot tell from the article whether this was concerning all magnets, or just the ones necessary for commercial generators. What dictates that we must be dependent on a grid, anyway? I am advocating independence from the grid for the majority of citizens, with a primarily solar power collection system that could be integrated into existing roofs without using space that could otherwise be farmed or saved for wildlife. Augmented with a small backyard windmill or two, each household could be entirely self-sufficient electrically.


But until the price comes down, it seems unrealistic for now.



There are still things we can do. An ‘energy audit’ of a home is never a bad idea. Even new homes need to be given check ups, like every other product. The best thing about saving energy in the first place is that it need not be done all at once. Some power losses can be stemmed more economically than others; the savings from tackling those could be channeled into other repairs. With the improved technologies in sealants, insulation, and construction materials, the demand on solar and wind collectors will be decreased, making independence more affordable.


As for transportation: that technology has been around for ages also. Again, it did not serve the status quo and so got buried – hidden away in corporate vaults and the dusty archives of the Bureau of Copyrights and Patents.


There is no reason to scrap all existing automobiles in favor of the new hybrids and electrics. A whole industry could grow up around conversions, which could include hybrids that ran exclusively on biofuel and solar collectors incorporated into the vehicle’s skin. The plug-in option for emergencies would be a bonus.


Of course, none of this is or would be as simple as it sounds here. Each step in the process offers opportunities for graft and other abuses. Systems and people do not change overnight. This may be a subject for further discussion later in this series. For now, though, change we must, or it will all be moot: Nature will take her course, whether we are with her – or against her…