Monday, February 9, 2009

Sustainable Unsustainable?

The energy crisis may be more challenging than we think.

A friend of mine sent me a link to this piece from NewScientist, which says that renewable energy needs to come from more renewable resources.

Silicon, which is abundant, is not the most efficient material for solar cells. That would be indium, "which is far from abundant."

"There are fewer than 10 indium-containing minerals, and none present in significant deposits – in total the metal accounts for a paltry 0.25 parts per million of the Earth's crust.

Most of the rare and expensive element is used to manufacture LCD screens, an industry that has driven indium prices to $1000 per kilogram in recent years. Estimates that did not factor in an explosion in indium-containing solar panels reckon we have only a 10 year supply of it left."

Hydrogen energy needs platinum, which "makes indium appear super-abundant."

After reading the piece, I had a very Malthusian dystopia moment like, there are just too many people on this planet.

Then I thought, maybe we could just pay people to generate energy. It could be a job. There are certainly enough people unemployed and underemployed in this country — would it be feasible to set up an energy farm with stationary bicycles or something? Maybe not, but it seems we need to keep thinking on a solution.

1 comment:

polar donkey said...

"After reading the piece, I had a very Malthusian dystopia moment like, there are just too many people on this planet."

Welcome to my world. I've seen global population estimates for year 2100 at 1.5 billion. The carrying capacity of the planet's human population is almost entirely dependent on oil. 10 calories of oil is necessary to produce 1 calorie of food. (That doesn't factor in the energy necessary for shipping.) If you believe oil is a finite resource and don't have way to change that 10 to 1 ratio, you are stuck with really big problem. To go from a 2020 population of 7+ billion to 1.5 billion in 80 years is horrific beyond imagination. To put it simply, that's a whole lot of dying primarily caused by the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse.