Sivu 1, 1:sta

Energy and overpopulation are our biggest challenges

ViestiLähetetty: 04.08.2008 17:33
Kirjoittaja Antti Roine
Fig 1: Our climate has never been stable. Carbon dioxide may increase temperature or vice versa. Both are valid conclusions based on currently available experimental data.

Climate change is not the most pressing issue facing mankind today. Hunting down the perpetrators of the greenhouse effect not only wastes time but focuses our attention on the wrong issues. We should instead be looking for new energy sources, new technologies and new means to manage population growth.

The importance of ensuring sufficient energy for the future is almost impossible to overestimate, because energy directly and indirectly affects the price of virtually everything in society. Energy is needed throughout the whole production chain; expensive energy simply means expensive products, food, medicines, pure water and services, and it is also likely to keep wages and salaries down.

Affordable and sustainable energy can allow us to maintain a fair standard of living for the whole of mankind, and thus allow us to focus on preserving our natural environment, biodiversity and even world peace. Massive population growth is the main reason for the exorbitant energy demand. The birth rate must be regulated, otherwise it will lead to further degradation of the environment and a worsening of problems in society, foiling all our other efforts.

Identifying sustainable energy sources seems to be the main problem. The 'right choice' is always easy to identify with hindsight, but it is possible to make more rational choices in advance too. For example, today we can easily say that companies investing ten years ago in cathode ray tube TVs or photographic film misdirected their investment in mature and obsolete technology. The wise companies identified the tremendous development potential of new LCD television monitors and digital photo sensors, and today they are reaping the rewards.

A similar scenario is now evident in the wind and bio-energy sector. Wind turbines and wind farms use technology that is today relatively mature, whereas solar energy still has tremendous development potential. The sun provides more power (1366 MW/km²) per square kilometre than a large nuclear power plant. According to annual net estimates, the density potential of solar energy may be one hundred times greater than that of wind and bio-energy.

Solar energy 300 MW/km2
Wind turbines 3 MW/km2
Bio-energy 2 MW/km2

Fig. 2: Annual solar power distribution is based on local solar irradiation and cloud coverage over the years 1991 to 1993.

Wind and bio-energy production wastes valuable areas of land and spoils landscapes. The farming of bio-fuels in particular destroys natural carbon sinks and biodiversity, and also pollutes water systems with fertilizers and insecticides. Their real net efficiency may in fact be negative, especially if the entire life cycle and necessary reserve power plants are taken into account.

Solar cells require less land, as they can be placed in sunny deserts or on rooftops, where they will not destroy carbon sinks and pollute the environment. The entire energy demand of Europe could be satisfied with an area of solar cells that is 110 by 110 kilometres in size. Correspondingly, an area of 250 by 250 kilometres could supply energy to the entire world. Wind or bio-energy would require one hundred times more land area.

Sunlight is the primary source of the wind-, bio- and hydropower, which all are secondary energy sources. We do not buy from peddler when we want to get a large amount of goods at low price, but directly from the primary producer. Why not to use this very same idea when looking for economical energy sources?

Fig. 3: The entire energy demand of Europe could be satisfied with an area of solar cells that is 110 by 110 kilometres in size.

The time of cheap energy is not past; it is ahead of us. If we do not wish to be dependent on potentially unstable oil-supplying countries forever, waiting for them to gradually empty our coffers, we must invest in solar technology. We must increase the efficiency and decrease the price of different types of solar cells, heat pumps, insulation, energy storage and transportation methods. New industrial photosynthesis cells, for example, offer the prospect of increasing the efficiency of hydrogen or sugar production to a level fifty times greater than wild plants could ever offer.

Fig. 4: Core of the chlorophyll molecule. Industrial photosynthesis process efficiency may be fifty times greater than wild plants could ever offer.

Fig. 5: Solar cells convert light to electrical energy, efficiency has been increased in laboratory scale but it can be done also in commercial scale by investing on production technology development. Solar thermal panels offer more than 95% efficiency already today.

One billion people in rich countries consume 7.6 kW of power, while the other 5.5 billion people in the world have to manage with only 1.3 kW. Those in the rich countries will not be able to save enough energy to compensate for the growing requirements of the world's poor. Of course, small personal energy savings by people in rich countries ease their conscience, but this does not solve the real global problem.

Fig. 6: World power consumption and CO2 emissions.

The Kyoto agreement is now ten years old and the depressing results are now available. The carbon dioxide content of the atmosphere is increasing faster than ever, along with food and fuel prices and population. The Kyoto agreement has only succeeded in transferring industry and jobs to those countries which care little about environmental problems. Agreements like this are also dangerous because they give a false sense of security.

New post-Kyoto agreements must channel emissions trading funds to the development of new solar technology and commit to curb population growth. The optimum stabilization of national population enhances culture and wellfare and prevents also war. And it is a wise nation which knows when to cease growing.

Fig. 7: Atmospheric carbon dioxide concentration increases along with the population. Annually 1000 million people in rich countries produce carbon dioxide 11.2 tons and 5500 million in poor countries 2.8 tons per person.

Only a brave soul is willing to honestly admit and fearlessly face the truth and the undeniable facts, which are out there for anyone with a sincere and logical mind to discover. We now need such people to overcome the world energy crisis. We need green idealists who will make our failures visible; we need open-minded citizens who will vote for change; we need wise politicians who will pass the necessary laws; and we need realist green engineers who will finally solve the problems.

Dr. Antti Roine, Ulvila, Finland
28 July 2008

The Santiago Times, 29 July 2008 ... enges.html

bsjonline, 31 July, 2008

The Scotsman, Edinburgh, 31 July 2008 ...

Accra Mail (Accra), 26 August 2008 ... es+opinion

Helsinki Times, 28 August 2008, page 2 ... Itemid=168