Total Pageviews

Monday, December 31, 2012

THE SHAPE OF THINGS TO COME BY 2020


I've regularly provided my ten top accomplishments and/or predictions for that year or next on December 31.  Two years ago I shared my top ten of 2010.  Then there were my prognostications a year ago, and even though I missed a couple, and a few were interjected to make fun of these things, I was nevertheless astonishingly accurate on some incredible accomplishments.

This time, I'll tell you what to expect over the next eight years, to the year I want to survive:  2020.  My version is not as expansive as H.G. Wells' The Shape of Things to Come, which predicted the next 173 years from 1933 when he published the book.  There was an interesting, maybe even gripping, 1936 film (yes, this is the whole 96 minute movie) starring Raymond Massey, beginning with a Christmas Noel.  The closed captioning was hilarious.   Come to think of it, this flick should be shown every Christmas...but never is.  Then, a truly junk sci-fi movie in 1979 based on this tome, and given a 20% rating by Rotten Tomatoes.  This book and films showed the suppression of religions and how technology can save the world.  Hmmm....

In my prophecies this time I won't necessarily predict the exact year, for that would be foolhardy.  Anyway, here are my top ten visions between now and 2020:

10.  Bashar al-Assad, Syrian president, will escape Syria, and soon, or be killed.  Chances are, he will be maintained in a United Arab Emirates luxury refuge or a protected compound close to London (his wife is from the UK).

9.  The U.S. will leave Okinawa.  Of course, we should also escape from Japan, Germany and South Korea, but give us a few more decades.  World War II has only been over for two-thirds of a century and Korean War for just about 60 years.  As of today, here are where our troops are located:



8.  The National Ignition Facility (left) at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory will attain net positive with laser fusion.  Remember?  Fusion is the process our Sun and all the stars use by consuming hydrogen to produce solar energy.  The problem is that the Hydrogen Bomb is also fusion, and controlling the reaction will be a monumental challenge.    ITER in France, the magnetic confinement scheme, will not in this timeframe achieve anything.  Commercial fusion should be attained sometime before 2100, and with a lot of luck or dire need, maybe 2050.

7.  It had to take the horror of the elementary school shooting in Connecticut, but gun control legislation will be enacted by the U.S. Congress, and probably in 2013.  However, neither the White House nor Congress will have the guts to even suggest a serious discussion  about repealing the Second Amendment.  There are larger issues than gun control, and, perhaps this is now that searing moment in our history and present to re-adjust the flawed package of our Constitution, Bill of Rights and amendments.  Over the past two centuries, these remarkable documents created by our founding fathers (no females and all white) have well served to make us become what we are today.  However, times have changed.  Can you imagine NASA not having the capability of correcting the course of any of our space adventures?  2013 would be nice, but an effort should be made to, by 2020, hold a National Constitutional Convention to enhance our governing capabilities.  Term limits?  Lobbyists?  Congress certainly won't do this.  If two-thirds of our state legislatures approve, both the White House and Congress are bypassed to schedule this CONVENTION.

6.  The USA, according to the International Energy Agency, will become #1 in oil production by 2020:


How? Mainly through fracking (the red part above).  Yet, there are contrarion viewpoints, too.  If there is no serious carbon tax (and there won't, so go to #1 to see what then could happen), by 2020, the levelized cost to produce electricity will settle in the range (2012 dollars) of:
  • coal = 10 cents/kWh (but dirty)
  • cleaner coal = 15 cents/kWh  (this is still not carbon capture and storage--CCS)
  • CCS coal = 20 cents/kWh
  • nuclear = 15 cents/kWh (if anything new actually gets built)
  • wind = 10 cents/kWh
  • solar PV = 15 cents/kWh

About PV, the cell modules of large systems will drop to 50 cents/watt.  However, the total installed cost for these utility scale farms will be around $4/watt, meaning that the actual PV cell cost would be only 12.5%.  Thus, if these solar conversion materials drop to zero (and they won't), the absolute lowest cost (including labor, insurance, construction materials, etc.) PV systems will not drop below 10 cents/kWh, and could will be as high as 15 cents/kWh for homes.  When you crank in the intermittency and coverage for less than one-third of the day, the economics become debatable  Of course Federal and state tax credits will disappear during this interval.  One final point  is that the utility company will tell you that your roof modules will not power your home if there is a total blackout, say, caused by a hurricane, even when the Sun is shining.  One option is to include batteries to cover nights.  But the life cycle system cost then could well double.  What I don't understand is why an automatic switch of some sorts is not not part of the circuit so your PV modules can at least power your home in the daytime.

5.  We won't send any humans to Mars, and neither will the Chinese.  We should stop sending anything expensive anywhere into space until we can afford to...say around the Year 2200.  The International Space Station will be abandoned.  Hate to say this, but no alien signals will be intercepted and translated.  No flying saucers will be captured.  If there is no new Cold War, with China this time, NASA will further diminish.

4.  The Pacific International Ocean Station will be commissioned, and dedicated to Guy Toyama.  This milestone will launch the Blue Revolution.


3.  There will be small wars, of course.  Terrorists will continue to cause minor havoc now and then, but nothing like 9/11.  There should be general peace on Earth, for China will not want a Cold War.   Russia will continue to decline and Europe will maintain their basket case status.  China will have enough problems of their own and Japan will not recover from Fukushima for a long time to come.  There will be increasing turbulence in Asia, for incoming leaders of China, Japan and South Korea will tend to be more nationalistic.  While, lifestyles will continue to decline in the USA, we will still rule supreme.  Mind you, the Military-Industrial Complex, fossil fuel industry, banking alliances and Farm Lobby will not just disappear.    Next president?  Wouldn't that be something if Angela Merkel survives through 2016, Hillary prevails, and both Japan and South Korea elect female leaders.  More hope for wider global peace then.

2.  The Chicago Mercantile Exchange has petroleum at $85 in 2020 (and $85 through December of 2021).  Governments and industry mostly believe this and plan accordingly.  Nowhere over the next 9 years has the CME predicting oil to be more than $92/barrel.  Sure, the U.S. will be better able to buffer international bumps.  However, I remain of the opinion that the price of oil will jump beyond our current level, perhaps to $150/barrel, and, maybe even $200/barrel, as soon as today, but certainly, by 2020.  Whether it's Israel bombing Iran, which will provoke another Middle East war, or whatever (and no one really knows what), petroleum supplies will be crippled, and the price will skyrocket.  What happens next is also predictable.  The world economy will go into depression, then oil prices will drop to $35/barrel, or less.  None of the renewable energy facilities will be able to compete, and the shift back to the fossils will again occur (as it did in 1998):



1.  As fossil fuels continue to be combusted, global warming will be shown to be the nightmare too many thought was a liberal hoax.  Mind you, between now and 2020 the sea level will not rise even an inch.  The average global temperature will not increase even one degree Celsius.  Hundreds of millions will not die one hot summer.   Yet, watch 131 years of global warming in 26 seconds, and imagine the next century.  I particularly worry that methane emanations from the melting Arctic tundra and coastal regions with marine methane hydrates could well trigger the beginning of The Venus Syndrome.  It's not too late to do something about this, and the clear answer is a severe carbon tax.  Our elected leaders fight to see who will be tossed over the fiscal cliff, China and Japan squabble over a couple of obscure islands while expanding their war budget, Republicans continue to make fun of the subject, fossil fuel companies expand their exploration and PR budget, and local communities protest over wind farms, biomass facilities and geothermal development.  What a shape to come for Planet Earth and Humanity.  Then again, I could be wrong.

-

No comments: