A Capital Idea Part 154: The Future of Energy Capture
I have been checking into, or Facebook friends have been posting, information on growing energy capture possibilities. Meanwhile, I have come across a couple of those personal, interesting tidbits in the process. Actually, one was a fishing reel that my wife and I recently bought. When I took it out for a "spin" for the first time last Friday, I noticed that it had fancy blue and green lights that went on every time the reel spun as I was reeling in the line. Apparently, small magnets were placed in the reel which work to produce electricity much as my battery-less flashlight does. If we can get kids to turn a wheel which pumps water up from a well, as is being done in some places, why can't we get people to generate electricity every time they walk or run, etc.? Alternatively, we could have trained hamsters furiously spinning magnetic wheels as they play on their exercise wheels in their cages. (I am semi-joking here but seriously that would be possible.) Exercise machines for people could actually serve the same purpose.
The other tidbit was about Nikola Tesla and his main backer. He built a large transmission tower in Long Island at a place called Wardenclyffe. I knew that before and thought that was interesting, given that my surname is Warden. But I didn't know until a few days ago that Tesla's backer, who bought the land, was a man named James S. Warden., after whom Wardenclyffe was named. Since I am probably related to a large percentage of people in the U.S. named Warden, there is a good chance that James S. Warden was a relative of mine -- just saying. I tried doing a search but couldn't find that out. As far as Tesla's experiments at Wardenclyffe are concerned, there are mixed and contradictory opinions. Tesla claimed that he could transmit energy underground, without cables as I understand it, and wind up with more than he started with on the other end, hundreds of miles away, somewhat like an underground lightning bolt. Obviously, since matter contains a great deal of energy, this ground of this planet has the potential to produce massive quantities of energy. However, specifically freeing and transmitting that energy is another matter, so I still don't know what to think of this.
Even without resorting to Tesla's original work, there are many smart inventors in modern times who are well-versed in physics, who are in the process of devloping newer, more accessible, cleaner and cheaper energy sources. One website from the UK (http://www.free-energy-info.co.uk/) lists a very large number of such inventions and their inventors, from around the world, in what is called an online book. The proprietor of this website, Patrick J. Kelly, makes the point that these inventions are not making something out of nothing, which is what some of the more far-fetched inventors claim, as well as what critics describe as the impossibility of these inventions working. As mentioned in my previous post, it's not that at all; this is a matter of capturing some of the large quantities of energy which are already present. Think of the Universe as a large energy pool, laced with various energy fields even where no matter is present, and even greater amounts of latent energy where matter (or "dark matter") is present.
At this point, I wish to make clear that this energy issue in no way implies that this planet lacks limits. Even in terms of energy, there is some kind of limit, but it is a tremendous amount, far more than we humans use or could even potentially use. However, this does not change the fact that we live on a finite planet, and human activities inevitably affect our planet. We have no right to destroy the Earth and sea, mother of life on this planet, as capitalism and its free markets have encouraged businesspeople and their government lackeys to do. Ecosystems can sustain a certain amount of growth and productivity, which is maximized in diverse ecosystems rich in life. In fisheries management, for instance, it is known that without adding fish, a lake can naturally sustain a certain number of pounds of fish per acre -- let's say 100 pounds per acre. One can have, say, 1,000 small fish weighing only 1/10 of a pound each, 100 one pound fish, or one 100 pound fish, for the sake of illustration, but without infusing the lake artificially with new fish or fertilizer, which is being subtracted from other places, there will only be 100 pounds of fish per acre. I have seen this principle time and time again in the fisheries I have visited. Wherever the fish are more numerous, they tend to be smaller, and vice versa. Thus, we need to keep in mind that in terms of sustainability, there are ecological limits, and people will always impact the environment, although new technologies may extend our abilities to develop ecologically sustainable cultures and allow the carrying capacity of this planet to sustain human life, to increase. Nonetheless, we have continued to steadily create a massive ecological crisis with human activities. Our activities have long-term effects, which take decades or centuries to be realized. The effects of burning fossil fuels, for example, gradually warm the climate over decades and centuries, which is why it is so important to stop using them as soon as possible, and also one reason why people are resistant to change, since the effects of our actitivies take so long to manifest, as my ecologist brother Bruce recently pointed out to me.
Some of the more promising newer potentially revolutionizing energy capture technologies which have been pointed out to me, include solar panel coated roads
curved solar panels or ones arranged like leaves of a tree, which capture more of the sun's solar energy than the flat ones do (http://theenergycollective.com/ecskris/178531/new-solar-technology-may-entirely-change-game);
solar cells which emit as well as absorb light, increasing their efficiency (http://physicsworld.com/cws/article/news/2012/apr/26/quirky-solar-cell-sets-new-efficiency-record);
hydrogen powered fuel cells which use water (http://inventors.about.com/od/sstartinventions/ss/Physics_Illustr_2.htm);
and cold fusion breakthroughs (http://discovermagazine.com/2012/nov/27-big-idea-bring-back-the-cold-fusion-dream).
Also, an extremely effective electricity conductor, Graphene, which is basically an extremely thin layer of simple carbon, has been discovered in recent years (http://www.graphene.manchester.ac.uk/story/).
I am sure that there are many other potentially useful energy technologies being developed, any of which if used properly and not exploited by individuals who hold patents on them, or control their production, may help aid the progressive cultural evolution of humanity.
Ultimately, the effects of technological development will depend on culture and psychology. It may be argued that technological development itself, while it may make life more convenient and transform the way that people live, does not necessarily alter the way that society functions. I plan to write more about this next time, but basically, if we continue to rely on a capitalist model, especially the so-called "free market," new technologies will only lead to new monopolies which will engage in power mongering, or extensions of existing monopolies of the financial elite. What new energy technology can do for us, is to give people the ability to gather their own energy, sufficient for their own use, freeing people of the grip of energy companies, and perhaps more importantly, stopping the widespread burning of fossil fuels and the use of other environment-destroying, non-sustainable products. How expensive these new technologies will be, depends upon whether we work together, hopefully with government help, to make them universally and cheaply accessible. Again, under the current free market model, these will simply become very expensive products with exhorbitant maintenance prices. But that is not necessary. I believe that the widespread realization by people that we need to change our ways, combined with growing ecological crises, will help to unite people globally in the quest to make these technologies work for the people, not for a small group of business owners. As I wrote about in a recent post, this may involve people working outside of the current corporate system, essentially subverting it and making it irrelevant. It may also involve forcing governments to reform their systems -- their way of doing business, so to speak, to serve the public rather than being beholden to big-monied interests. We need democracy which expresses the will of the people in order to accomplish these things, and ultimately, the involvement of democratic government -- not corporate or banking-based capitalistic government -- all the way from the most local of levels to the global level to ensure human and environmental rights. In my opinion, what is needed is the implementation of a paradigm shift which I already see underway in this world -- a shift in human consciousness and spirit -- away from greed, exploitation and the allowing of extreme wealth and power disparities, to one of cooperation, sharing and the nurturing of the environment which sustains us. Otherwise, we will be up the proverbial creek of capitalist domination, without a paddle.