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The October 2008 Energy Update

By Steve Jones,

The election in the US is next week and I'm not sure who to vote for. I really think we need to treat the energy situation in this country as a crisis and attack it the way we attacked the space program in the 60s: set a goal for the next decade and drive everyone towards it. We could substantially reduce our dependence on oil if we really attacked the problem. I mean all oil, not just foreign oil, but our overall use of fossil fuels. Actually I think every country should do this, but especially the larger companies like the US and China that use a tremendous amount of energy and can afford to research all types of alternatives to fossil fuels.

One of the things I really would like to see more of in the US is wind power. T Boone Pickens, show in the video linked here, has some interesting ideas. I don't think he's always right, and don't really admire his story, but I think he sees this as a problem in the US and he's trying to do something. And I don't believe he's just looking to earn more money; I think he believes in the project.

There are a lot of people that aren't thrilled with wind power and I can understand issues. Over the last month we've had less wind here at the ranch, which means if we had a wind generator, we'd be getting less power. Since we aren't using less power, we would definitely need another source during those calm days. There's a solution using compressed air, though it's more for large scale wind plants. I'm skeptical of how well underground caverns might store compressed air, but it's probably worth some pilots to get a better idea of the efficiencies and feasibility of this solution.

I also saw this new turbine that has a ring around it, which should reduce the noise from the blades. It's not cheap ($10k installed), but it doesn't require some of the clearances of other turbines. This is the type of thing that we ought to start requiring on more buildings. At least I think it's worth the aesthetic compromise. GE is also testing new materials and shapes for turbines. This is the type of research that governments should foster and support, and then license the technology to companies to build products with.

Google is spending money on a variety of projects, from floating data centers to a car sharing program to a plan for generating much of the power in the US from renewable sources. I'm not sure I completely agree with the details they have, but more people should have their passion to reduce the power they use.

How green can we be? I have no idea, though I have faith in humans to get it done if we need to. I just wish more people would believe that we need to. Kalen Delaney, noted SQL Server expert and author, talks a bit about the challenges of going green. She brings up some great points about simple things that could help. To me, we have to walk a fine line between enforcing standards and allowing innovation, something that isn't done too well by many companies.

Steve Jones


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