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2030Technology That Will Change the World$
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Rutger van Santen, Djan Khoe, and Bram Vermeer

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780195377170

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780195377170.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 12 June 2021

Searching for New Energy

Searching for New Energy

Chapter:
2.2999999999999998 Searching for New Energy
Source:
2030
Author(s):

Rutger van Santen

Djan Khoe

Bram Vermeer

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/oso/9780195377170.003.0014

We looked in the previous chapter at the prospects for our current energy infrastructure and asked how we can make it more flexible and sustainable. In this chapter, we fast-forward to the new energy economy after the oil era. The quantity of available energy is not the main worry in the postcarbon era. We’re surrounded by tremendous amounts of energy. The power of the sun’s rays was there long before we started to discover fossil energy sources, and on Earth’s surface, we can harness wind and water. Another vast amount of energy is encapsulated in our planet in the form of heat. As yet, we only tap small fractions of these natural energy supplies. Evaluating our long-term options, we have to ask ourselves: How can we harness these energy sources in such a way that they may serve us without a serious regress in our human civilization? Only then may we hope for a gradual transition to a new energy era. In the course of our history, we have used ever more concentrated forms of energy. In the era when we warmed ourselves by a wood fire and ate the grains of the field, we needed about 1 square meter of land for each watt of energy that came available. When we tamed wind and water power, the energy yield of a square meter of land rose by a factor of ten. The advent of coal, oil, and gas accounted for another factor of hundred improvement. This is calculated by summing up the amount of land you need for excavating the energy carriers and converting them to a useful form of energy. A similar calculus can be made using the energy content of the energy carriers themselves. Society has evolved with each subsequent energy innovation. More concentrated forms of energy allowed for a more concentrated community with a more complex division of labor. Now we don’t have to search large areas of land for some useful calories for ourselves; we can devote our time to comfort and complicated products.

Keywords:   breeder reactors, earthquakes, formic acid (HCOOH), geothermal energy, hydroelectric power dams, labor, microelectronics, nuclear power, oil, photovoltaic energy

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