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Wednesday, February 21, 2018

THE FUTURE OF MY WORLD

Every so often I wake up at night and can't go back to sleep.  While tossing around last night, some thoughts formed in my mind on the future of the world according to Pat, me.  While most struggle, enjoy, coast, whatever, through life, a few of us through circumstance and fate are placed in a privileged, or cursed, role to make a difference for Planet Earth and Humanity.

I can look back to the Second Energy Crisis of 1979, and, more specifically, my stint in the U.S. Senate beginning almost forty years ago, to pinpoint when this enormous sense of responsibility suddenly appeared.  I was working for the summer at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory on laser fusion, and was summoned to join U.S. Senator Spark Matsunaga in Washington, D.C.  In that 3-year period, I became involved, and in some instances, personally created, the following future pathways:
  • Controlled fusion, which then looked generations away, and today, still is seemingly going nowhere.  But if the Sun and all the stars used this mechanism to create energy, why not us?  That was my thinking early in my life.  Laser fusion is definitely stalled and magnetic confinement at ITER in France is moving oh too so slowly.  The future for commercialization?  Beyond 2050, and that is being optimistic.
  • The U.S. House was progressing on a wind energy bill, and as Matsunaga was pro-solar and on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, he was asked to be the key link in the Senate.  In the mid-1970's I was chair of the Wind Energy Division of the American Solar Energy Institute, but was generally discouraged at how slowly this field was moving.  Congress did pass the first wind energy bill to initiate the national effort, but it turned out that the key to the success of this field was Sparky's initiatives on the Finance Committee.  His general counsel was Ed Ing, who was instrumental in passing the necessary tax incentives to spark commercialization.  Ed went on to at one point become president of the American Wind Energy Association, which was started by Tom Gray, the House staff lead for wind research legislation.  I just last week had dinner with Ed and Chris (who also worked in the same DC Senate office) in Honolulu.  Wind and geo energy are now the lowest cost electricity producing energy options, safer and cleaner than natural gas, and much cheaper than coal or nuclear (click on that bar graph below to read the details, and click on that above link to understand the terms):
  • The field of hydrogen has recently progressed well.  Even the U.S. Department of Energy said this.  Oh well, that was five years ago.  However, later in this summary you will learn that Toyota and Honda are actually today selling commercial hydrogen powered cars.  I joined Senator Matsunaga's staff most specifically to introduce hydrogen legislation.  In the mid-1970's, a couple of studies completed by the Hawaii Natural Energy Institute at the University of Hawaii, which I directed, indicated that the future of transportation was crucial for the state.  The price of oil was jumping, and there was fear about how that would influence jet travel for tourism.  The solution clearly was the hydrogen jetliner, plus, we also thought that methanol was the best replacement for gasoline, not ethanol,  To produce methanol from biomass, a key ingredient was lower cost hydrogen.  Then, too, I was linked with Lawrence Livermore on fusion, and this technology depended on isotopes of hydrogen.  I have written a series of articles for The Huffington Post on hydrogen, and expressed some reservations about the timing of this option.  Well, my discussions with Toyota and Honda representatives earlier this month at Energy Week hosted by the University of Kyushu, returned me to some optimism.  They are actually already selling hydrogen powered fuel cell cars anticipating profits as far into the future as the 2030's.  Perhaps my proposal to make hydrogen free now has some re-gained some relevance.  At the PyeongChang Winter Olympics, featured is the Hyundai Nexo compact SUV hydrogen car with a range of 378 miles.
  •  The hydrogen jetliner?  Rinaldo Brutoco was developing the H2 Clipper, but I have seen no recent progress.  The Matsunaga Hydrogen Act stimulated a $2 billion mostly black Department of Defense program in the 1980's, which loosely continues.  Until Airbus or Boeing gets seriously involved, I suspect nothing much will happen.  I've suggested that the USA, European Union and Japan (Mitsubishi) initiate an international partnership for the long term, but I see no movement.  Perhaps beyond 2050 for a next generation hydrogen Mach 5 aircraft.
  • Seabed mining legislation became law as shepherded by Senator Matsunaga in the Senate.  It was on my watch, and I got deeply involved with manganese nodules, the Hughes/CIA-led Project Azorian and the Law of Sea Treaty.  Each of those topics would take many books to provide sufficient information.  However, this experience led to my institute at the University of Hawaii becoming the Department of Interior's Marine Mining Technology Center with the University Mississippi. More recently, interest has re-surfaced because of the presence of rare earth minerals and marine methane hydrates (MMH) at the bottom of the ocean.  China, in particular, is getting very active.  Interestingly enough, both of these marine resources are best found in the Pacific Rim of Fire.  MMH is the cause of the Venus Syndrome, a book in an early stage of conceptualization.  These new developments have given me some fresh ideas on how to proceed.  I have found a villain.  Solution?  Not there yet.  Timing?  Rare earths from the sea bottom commercialized in a decade or two, MMH after 2050 and the book, perhaps this coming year or two or more.

I've also thought about Rainbow Pearls, International, Hawaiian Onsen (geospas, an ecotourism venture) and more.  Go to my Mensa talk for details.

What I'm really doing these days is nothing much.  In only a little more than two months, this blog site will no longer be a daily.  So I can get serious about really doing nothing.

This curse of Saving Humanity and Planet Earth never goes away.  So to anyone out there desiring to become rich and famous, feel free to seek my advice.  I won't even charge you a buck.


Regarding the Blue Revolution, don't bother unless you happen to be that imaginative billionaire.

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2 comments:

Anonymous said...

another option is AI or artificial intelligence which is new technology being used in medicine, finance and can be used in the areas of energy production and utilization. this may be the answer to insure that our future world is sustainable and will provide for our needs in health, wealth and the energy we need to survive.

PLANET EARTH AND HUMANITY said...

Clearly, AI is a technology of note for the future. In fact, just last month I posted on how AI can actually be the determining factor for the attainment of World Peace by 2050:

http://planetearthandhumanity.blogspot.com/2018/01/world-peace-by-2050.html

However, I did not include that pathway in MY Future World because, while I taught computer courses a long time ago, I cannot include AI as a specific field I helped nurture many decades ago.

Aloha.