Question. Wind as a means to generate electricity or synthesis hydrogen, or
gasoline or methanol or what?
#### Wind even now is very close to being competitive pricewise against
coal, and as far as I know it's comparable or better than nuclear (at least
in the current regulatory and legal climate which makes nuclear power more
expensive than it should be). Once oil becomes more expensive and energy
prices edge up a little bit, wind could become the ideal source of energy -
inexhaustible, clean, decentralized, safe from terrorist threats, scalable
to almost any demand and CO2-emission neutral (I doubt the greenhouse effect
is what's cracked up to be but this is still a bonus). All this without any
major technological advances, such as the ones needed to bring photovoltaics
into the economic mainstream. And the reliability and price of wind turbines
is still improving, too.
Once wind becomes an important source of electricity, it could be in
principle used to generate hydrogen, and even liquid fuels (like methanol or
hydrocarbons) but this would most likely be too expensive for transportation
purposes. Natural gas or coal conversion into fuels compatible with hybrid
electrics and with fuel cells most likely would be preferable (thus avoiding
the use of pure hydrogen in cars), unless some sort of "Kyoto II" treaty
would ban carbon dioxide emissions outright.
By the way, nuclear energy might still be a reasonable solution - although I
imagine that it might be a good idea to concentrate all newly built reactors
in a few "reactor parks" - areas somewhere in the sparsely populated areas
in the center of the continental US, with single reactors spaced far apart
so that one nuclear bomb would not damage more than one reactor but close
enough for all reactors to share common defenses, including a restricted
entry perimeter, and air defense.
In general, there is no reason to believe that there is an imminent energy
crisis - there are solutions waiting to be implemented, with only slightly
higher costs than oil, and the fuel cost of driving an average car will not
dramatically increase even if there is not a single drop of natural oil left
in the world - with improvements in energy efficiency of future cars, the
per mile cost of fuel will remain almost constant, even if the per gallon
price goes up. Absolutely no reason whatsoever to tax anybody for the
offence of driving an SUV.
Rafal Smigrodzki, MD-PhD
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