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April 07, 2005

Solving Global Warming.

Regular readers will know that I take roughly the Lomborg view of Global Warming. That it is happening, that we are causing at least part of it, that us causing that part comes partly from fossil fuel and partly from land use changes, that we don’t actually have to do all that much about it and that Kyoto is the most expensive piece of nonsense yet proposed about anything.

How can I believe the first, that there is a problem, and not believe the second, that we must do something about it? Ahh, but I don’t believe that we should do nothing about it, what I believe is that changes in technology will make the whole issue of carbon emissions moot. From where I sit, running a company that deals with scandium and its salts, I can see a huge effort and investment in alternative energy production technologies. Solar cells can now be constructed that are 30% efficient, there are people absolutely certain that roofs can be made of titanium oxide based plates that will separate water into H and O  using only the sun. That latter technology, if 10% efficient, would allow the roofs of US housing to produce sufficient H to power  fuel cells to provide heat, cooling and electricity to those same US houses. The researchers insist that 15% efficiency is currently 5 years away (and not always 5 years away. Last year it was 6 years away.).

What brings on this discussion of how technology will save us? (Note to varied greenies who characterise this as the "Technology will save us argument", meant as a derogatory put down of those who blindly believe that something will turn up. The point is that all of us believe this argument, the issue is which technology will save us. Porritt, Moonbat and the FOE crowd think that living as medieaval peasants is the right technology, others differ,but we are all arguing that technology will save us.) Rolls Royce today announced their contribution to the manufacture of fuel cell based power generation systems:

The aero-engine maker has teamed up with a Singapore state-linked consortium to invest $100m (£53m) in building an environmentally friendly power source to replace gas and diesel generators.

Charles Coltman, chief executive of Rolls' fuel cell systems division, said: "This is the largest commitment of investment funds to be made in this sector we know of."

Rolls is investing $75m in developing the prototype. The remaining sum is being put up by the Singapore consortium, made up of the state investment agency Temasek Holdings, the state's Economic Development Board and Accuron Technologies, a privatley owned precision engineering and technology company.

They plan to build a portable power source that generates one megawatt of electricity - enough for 200 households. They plan to sell it to small businesses, office buildings and power generation companies as alternative or back-up power supplies "some time before the end of 2008". "We are on track and cautiously optimistic," Mr Coltman added.

I talk to the guys in this programme on an occasional basis as one of the options (the most efficient, I am glad to say)  in the manufacturing of such solid oxide fuel cells is to use scandium oxide as part of the electrolyte. Indeed, we actually contributed to the research at St Andrews that shows the very best mixture of dopants for stabilised zirconia used, and have helped spread the word. All on the basis of our own enlightened self interest, of course, being able to see that if the scandium market expands from its current 3 tonnes a year to hundreds of tonnes, then people who trade in the material are going to benefit.

There are other companies working on similar technology, from Toho Gas in Japan who will ship you a generator next week to CSIRO in Australia, Lawrence Livermore in California who are looking at reducing manufacturing costs (it is possible to meet the DOE target of capital costs already, 4 years early) and, well, as I say, huge amounts of research being done, all leading to what to me seems an inescapable conclusion. Give it another 20 years, round and about my retirement date, and I expect small scale solar and hydrogen power generation (yes, I know they are different technologies) to be the process of choice, on purely financial grounds, cheaper than any combination of fossil fuels.

We can argue about whether more government money is needed to push this research (I would say not, the US program, SECA, has plenty) but I think the conclusion is not in doubt. We simply don’t have to worry about emissions because we are developing technologies that don’t emit. In fact, they are already developed in a scientific sense, now what is needed is plain engineering, cheaper, smaller, better. We don’t need to change the world’s economy so as to use less energy, we need to simply do what we are doing, simply continue to develop those technologies that produce energy without carbon emissions, something that is being done very well by a huge number of people, most of us driven on by the vast profits we can see available from being able to produce power more cheaply than current technologies.

For that is the aim. Not power without carbon emissions, but power cheaper than today and that’s coming, with no emissions a side effect. So screw Kyoto and the horse it rode in on.

April 7, 2005 in Climate Change | Permalink

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» Carnival of the Capitalists - Edition 04-10-05 from TJ's Weblog
Welcome to the latest edition of the 'Carnival of the Capitalists/! I hope you enjoy the following hand selected TOP 20 entries below. They represent 20 great and original blog pieces from all over the blogosphere. I actually think that... [Read More]

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» Carnival of the Capitalists from Deinonychus antirrhopus
Check out this weeks carnival. I'd also like to recommend Tim Worstall's post on Global Warming. It starts off pretty well, Regular readers will know that I take roughly the Lomborg view of Global Warming. That it is happening, that we are causing at l... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 11, 2005 5:37:58 PM

» Carnival of the Capitalists from Deinonychus antirrhopus
Check out this weeks carnival. I'd also like to recommend Tim Worstall's post on Global Warming. It starts off pretty well, Regular readers will know that I take roughly the Lomborg view of Global Warming. That it is happening, that we are causing at l... [Read More]

Tracked on Apr 11, 2005 5:39:03 PM

Comments

This is anothet good idea. Alternative energysolutions are what we should invest in...
http://www.wired.com/news/planet/0,2782,67121,00.html?tw=wn_1techhead

this is a good blog about it...
http://alt-e.blogspot.com/

Posted by: Bengt | Apr 7, 2005 3:02:07 PM