Energy is an enormously salient contemporary issue. From the pending lift on the ban of Hydraulic Fracking in New York State to Obama’s deferred decision on the Keystone XL pipeline, the voices yelling about the environment our energy are getting louder. Greenies point to the BP spill. Energy companies fight back in the battle for public opinion with “clean coal” tv spots that tie the issue to the economy.
No one is wrong to tie the issues of environmental protection and economic recovery. They are intrinsically linked. But…
It’s too easy to loose sight of the truth about the energy crisis: that the sun is really our only source of power. Discounting geothermal energy, all of our energy is already coming from the sun, albeit indirectly. The calories we consume were once plant matter that harnessed the sun’s power through photosynthesis, and fossil fuels are no more than extremely pressurized organic matter. The gasoline in your car is brought to you courtesy of very very old organisms that accumulated the energy through photosynthesis that is pushing you down the highway.
Humanity is lucky that Earth has an abundance of fossil fuels that have accumulated over the history of life on the planet. Harnessing their power has allowed us to build a vast modern civilization. It’s as if life on Earth has built of a cache of the sun’s energy to propel an intelligent species toward progress.
It’s time we realized, though, that the only source of energy that Earth really has is the sun. Even wind farms are harnessing energy created by climate patterns, which are created by the sun’s seasonal warming and cooling of air. I believe that the next truly great innovation of civilization will be to directly harness the sun’s energy. No reliance on organic matter. No reliance on fossil fuel energy reserves. Such a direct and efficient method of gathering energy has boundless possibilities for economic development.
First, we will start using solar panels more widely. Eventually we will plaster the Earth with them. Then someone will realize it’s more efficient to put a giant dish in orbit that always collects sunlight and transmit it in compressed microwave form to the Earth. And finally, man will truly master nature by building a Dyson Sphere around the sun.