Saturday, October 25, 2008

Focus II: Vision

Focus on a resolution of the energy crisis must include a viable vision of the alternative energy future.  That vision must be not only sharable but contagious.  It is my assumption that the next president should and probable will set up "Blue Ribbon" fact finding commission to go about determining energy goals and steps required to accomplish preferred goals.  The fact finders must possess the ability to go beyond facts and deal in the realm of human vision.

In order to motivate and coordinate the acts of millions of people over more than a generation, long range goals have to achieve a legitimacy.  Such legitimate shared goals ought to be considered a vision, and the legitimacy of the vision ought to be understood to rest on a rational faith.   A fact finding commission must seek "evidence of things unseen", since the future can only exist in vision, tangible reality only emerges through goal directed effort by groups of human beings. We live then in a time when the human ability to envision a future, emerges as our most important tool for the survival of the present form of American Society.

We are fortunate that we are about to install a national leader who is a gifted visionary, who possess exceptional talents for identifying viable collective goals, sharing a contagious vision of those goals, and implementing routes to the realization of those goals.

I assume that a figure of Barack Obama's astuteness would wish for a "fact finding commission" to sort out competing visions of the future. The function of the blue ribbon fact finders would be both to separate viable visions that will bring the American people to where they want to be from vision that are impractical or which would be deemed to yield unsatisfactory results.

Above all else the blue ribbon fact finders must not simply identify a vision but must begin the contagion process without which the vision will not be realized. They must also provide political leadership with political cover. There will be no doubt political opposition to the vision and the steps that will be taken to realize it. The first line of defense will be, "this is what the experts recommend". Because they are on the front line and ultimately exemplars, members of the blue ribbon commission must be selected for their courage, as well as their intelligence, capacity for rational thought, and vision. They will be exemplars for a nation and for the world, because it is anticipated that they will set a path on which all people will be traveling for the next 40 years.

It would be very nice to find a group of Richard Feynmans to set on the blue ribbon commission, people who are gifted visionaries, who have great respect for facts,  and who have to the ability to ferret out the critical facts.  

I don't know how to do this on a small scale in a practical way, but I do know that computing machines are very large; they fill rooms. Why can't we make them very small, make them of little wires, little elements---and by little, I mean little. For instance, the wires should be 10 or 100 atoms in diameter, and the circuits should be a few thousand angstroms across. Everybody who has analyzed the logical theory of computers has come to the conclusion that the possibilities of computers are very interesting---if they could be made to be more complicated by several orders of magnitude. If they had millions of times as many elements, they could make judgments. They would have time to calculate what is the best way to make the calculation that they are about to make. They could select the method of analysis which, from their experience, is better than the one that we would give to them. And in many other ways, they would have new qualitative features. . . .

But there is plenty of room to make them smaller. There is nothing that I can see in the physical laws that says the computer elements cannot be made enormously smaller than they are now. In fact, there may be certain advantages.

This then is a man of courage, intelligence, discernment and vision.


Jason Ribeiro said...

Some interesting reading can be found here about Feynman:

Feynman-Tufte principle

and here:
Richard Feynman's "Nature cannot be fooled"

Anonymous said...


Not to get too political, but Obama + Reid + Pelosi = nuclear power dead in the water. I predict that the NRC will be stacked with people whose agenda will be to stop the uprate process for existing plants, cancel new plants, cancel Gen IV projects like the MSR, and generally strangle nuclear power in the crib, in favor of windmills and solar panels and biofuels.

McCain's nuclear vision is much more detailed and comprehensive, and at the very least, uprates would continue, and we would at least limp along towards Gen IV. Under Obama, with his friend Amory Lovins at his side, nuclear power would be effectively dead.

Charles Barton said...

A lot of people now regret underestimating Obama. We should nlt either before he plays his hand.

Jason Ribeiro said...

David, not to get too political with you either, but the concern for nuclear energy should not be focused on which side supports it most, the concern and focus should be on gaining support, educating, and promoting to the general public so that nuclear is not vulnerable to whichever direction the political wind blows. The cause is of greater importance to divide it by enemies and allies. Don't get me wrong, there are plenty of enemies of nuclear, but their voice can be squelched, and is being done so, by good efforts of the nuclear industry. The nuclear industry is notoriously bad at standing up for itself in the public eye. It's promotion and education efforts are abysmal and next to nil. It has become the Rodney Dangerfield of energy sources because of this. If Al Gore can convince the world of his vision with a movie so can nuclear energy.

Marcel F. Williams said...

Most Republicans, Democrats, and Independents are for building more nuclear power plants. But we need more than just a marginal increase in nuclear capacity if we're going to end our dependence of foreign oil and stop the increase in greenhouse gasses into the atmosphere.

That means that nuclear power plants are going to have start producing more than electricity. Our nuclear facilities need to start producing carbon neutral gasoline, diesel fuel, aviation fuel, methanol, and dimethyl ether.

Once nuclear power plants start producing carbon neutral gasoline via hydrogen through water electrolysis combined with carbon from biomass or extracted from the atmosphere, then the imagination of Americans and the rest of the world will be fully captured, IMO.

Marcel F. Williams

Charles Barton said...

Marcel, I agree with you. I maintain that future energy for our society will come primarily in the form of electricity generated by nuclear reactor powered systems. I am in the process of unpacking reasons why I have reached this conclusion. The object of my present series of posts is to look at a possible process through which this will become a formal goal for outr society. I also want to address the importance of the same process also removing obstacles to reaching this goal.

Anonymous said...

Has anyone thought of making propaganda films attacking the anti-nuclear movement?

Maybe a series similar to the WWII Why We Fight series, focusing on different enemies (the professional anti-nuclear activists, the fossil fuel industry and their stooges, or the Malthusian misanthropes)?

Marcel F. Williams said...

Charles, I think the federal government through their TVA nuclear reactors needs to show the rest of the industry the way to go by being the first nuclear power plants in the US to produce gasoline and other synthetic fuels during off-peak hours.

Since the commercialization of mechanical aerocarbon extracting facilities are probably at least a decade away, on site greenhouse biomass farms perhaps using switch grass should be used to provide the carbon for synfuel production. Biomass could also supply 20% of the hydrogen for hydrocarbon fuels at nuclear facilities while also supply 100% of the needed carbon.

There's plenty of free land encompassing our nuclear facilities to build biomass greenhouses. Some of the waste heat from nuclear facilities could even be used to provide heating and cooling for the on site greenhouse facilities.

But, most importantly, no new technology is required for nuclear power plants to start producing hydrocarbon synfuels via electrolytic hydrogen combined with biomass.

New Papyrus

Charles Barton said...

Marcel, There is little doubt that TVA has for some time taken the lead nationally in "new" construction. TVA completed Watts Bar Unit I in 1996. They rebuilt Browns Ferry Unit I, a projected that reached a successful conclusion last year, and they are currently Completing Watts Bar II. These projects make TVA the only national utility with with an unbroken string of Nuclear Building experiences stretching back to the first nuclear era.

I am not a big fan of biomass based fuels. I regard them as energy inefficient. They also mine the soil of minerals and nutrients.

Marcel F. Williams said...

Until aerocarbon extraction devices become commercially available, I don't think we have any choice.

Most of the land owned by nuclear facilities is simply going unused. On site hydroponics would be even more efficient than simply using greenhouses. And adding nuclear hydrogen to the process increases the efficiency of fuels from biomass by 500%.

As far as ethanol production on farms, that is a total waste of resources, IMO. Utilizing-- biowaste-- from open air farming to produce gasoline, diesel fuel, aviation fuel, methanol, and dimethyl ether would be much more efficient and would allow farmers to increase food production while also increasing synfuel production.

Anonymous said...

Charles, Richard Feynman or Freeman Dyson are definitely the caliber of people needed to determine national energy policy. Instead we got Bush & Cheney, Al Gore, T. Bone Pickens, Joe Romm and Armory Lovins – crooks, thieves and liars. Energy Policy for sale to the highest bidder, otherwise to the highest ratio of biggest mouth / smallest brain. It’s amazing how Politicians like to defer to Military Experts when it comes to War Strategy (after the debacle of the Vietnam War) but when it comes to the much more difficult problem of Energy Policy – it’s a complete free-for-all, 80% vested interests, buying Energy Policy, the other 20% Idealistic Nitwits who don’t even understand basic thermodynamics.

One singular feature of the pro-renewables, anti-nuclear types is their complete silence on the need for electricity + water + waste/volcanic/atmospheric/biomass CO2 to methanol production R&D. They’ve already developed similar automated equipment for Mars rocket fuel – but complete silence on Methanol – which shows clearly who butters the bread of Joe Romm, Armory Lovins, Gore and Pickens. Oil Interests instituted a blockade of Methanol Fuel along with Electric Vehicles back in the late 90’s.

There is no other way to adequately store Renewable Energy than Electricity to Liquid Fuels – almost certainly Methanol which can easily be converted into DME. Unbelievable, talking about molten salt or compressed air storage when wind, solar & hydro fluctuate over wide areas for periods exceeding weeks, months and even years. A typical river in Northern Canada, has 2 to 4 times the flow over long periods in the spring thru early summer, when energy demand is lowest. So hydro plants must be inefficiently sized to average Winter flow, and above average Winter flow or Summer flow energy is just thrown away. The Wind Energy proponents like to ignore the fact that after even 20% of Total Electricity Production, Wind Capacity factor will drop drastically, and there is no way Wind and Solar can replace a significant portion of total National Energy Consumption without Liquid Fuel production. It is sheer stupidity or absolute corruption, or both, that major R&D is not being done on designing automated Electricity + Water + carbon to liquid fuel production.

As another point of interest, if Hyperion or Nuscale can sell 25 MWe Nuclear Power plants, with 5 year refueling, for $40 million, they will sell by the tens of thousands to small communities and remote mines throughout the World, especially in the North – the pseudo-Greenies have no alternative to offer, except Burn-that-Oil. They will have to beat potential customers off with a stick. The only alternative is difficult, expensive toxic Oil shipments, feeding high maintenance diesel generators, at typically $0.50 to $1.30 per kwh. Wind & Solar are almost nonexistent in the North – predominantly because of the long timeframe energy storage problem.

Anonymous said...

Speaking about Pickens, if you think Mr. Wind & Fossil Fuel himself – has the National Interest at heart – check out his California Proposition 10 Rip-Off Scam:

Pickens Scam: 10 to 50 G’s subsidy for NG vehicles, 2 G’s for only one HEV – the Prius

More on Pickens thieving Scam, Methanol Series HEV’s have quadruple the efficiency of his NG vehicles


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