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The Roof is on Fire

June 2008

There’s also a thing called a thorium energy amplifier reactor which would be a lot more efficient. If it works as its Nobel prize-winning designers predict, known thorium reserves would run six billion people at American luxury for sixty thousand years.

Heavyweight physics prof weighs into climate/energy scrap

Problem being, of course, that unless our devices all get a lot more efficient, that translates into a hell of a lot of waste heat which has to go somewhere. I think we need to invent a way to vent heat off into space. Maybe send it to the moon or something.

Jody commented:

...we don't need no water, let the mother ****er burn

On a more serious note, i wouldn't mind some of it getting channeled into my office.

And on another more serious note, we should get over the idea of preserving our wasteful lifestyle. Someone should convince us otherwise - they'd deserve a nobel prize.

Maybe I'll forgo the heat after all, and just put on another cardy.

Matt commented:

Trouble is that—while I do agree with you—I just can't see the world being able to decrease energy usage.

Take the ultra-cheap ultra-economical micro-cars coming on to the market; they're so cheap that we'll just end up with many more cars on the road, leading to (I suspect) no huge decrease in fossil fuel usage. Per-car usage might fall, but that's just going to enable more people to own cars.

Meanwhile, everyone is buying HD televisions, which use far more power than conventional TV. And the third world is doing its best to catch up the West in energy consumption and luxury goods. Ruh-roh.

brehaut commented:

theres a theory that i cant cite because im a failure as an academic, but its basicly impossible for a set of people to reduce their energy usage. If you make things cheaper/more efficient people will just use more and retain the current expenditure. It basically requires some vicious external force to stop the system.

Jody commented:

Yeah, I hear you boys. And I am still thinking about that post you did a while ago Matt, about developing countries not wanting to be stuck with microenterprising when they could be aspiring to become a multiple mac using, SUV driving, electric knife wielding household... I have just started The end of Poverty by Jeffrey Sachs which will hopefully address some of these issues, as well as telling me what I should be doing.

Meanwhile today I am driving from Ponsonby to Howick to pick up my grandmother and then to Botany with her to meet my brother, and then reversing the process (not literally - that would be very dangerous driving). So I can hardly talk about waste. But what should I do? Tell my grandmother to get stuffed and sit alone in my Aunty's house all day with cataracts in both eyes?! This is a small scale example of the problem: we would have to change our expectations, our conceptions of what is possible and available. It is a big deal.

KT commented:

I have the solution: develop more efficient cars, but keep raising fuel taxes! i.e. tamper with the above-described correlation between resource efficiency and affordability. In time, only a handful of pompous rich people will be able to afford to be wasteful, and then they'll look like dicks and the masses (having learned to live in better ways by this time) will rise up and there will be a glorious revolution.