Comment 43546

By BobInnes (registered) - website | Posted July 16, 2010 at 16:55:33

Hi Kiely. Interesting stuff. Seems to be two inter-related issues, stuff getting cheaper and incremental improvements enabling new technologies. Having never "declared technology can't help" I already allowed for a 20-30% improvement which i suppose includes both above elements plus conservation. Greens however, are demanding much more and given Undustrial's thoughts, it seems any 30% reduction is simply not enough given the China thing.

As pertains to our debate, I say the stuff you mention, while interesting is 1. no big deal (falls within the 30% in next 20 years) and 2. if you make a big deal about it and folks listen, those folks will go back to sleep and NEVER CHANGE the more fundamental stuff like urban density that could make a much bigger difference. Why would they? Kiely says its ok! For that reason alone, i would prefer that we listen to MacKillop rather than your argument, even despite that you have a good point. I can't recall all your past posts, but i'm sure you've argued in favour of the urban solution RTH espouses, no?

BTW, i hope all that used lube oil is being recycled by that place in, i think Breslau (can't recall the name) or at least burned for heating (after contaminants removed).

However, i argue against the idea that windmills and conventional solar will EVER get much cheaper. There is already lots of competition, we probably saw the 2nd last big advance with thin film and both sun and wind are dispersed. Oh, i'm sure 10-20% reduction is within reach but how do you improve a propeller, a 100 yr old technology or an electric generater (150 yrs) or a big pole (how old is that)? Better fibres will only go so far. Solar collectors tend to have glass covers which will only increase with the price of oil. How do you change that? Nano solar, sure, but in the debate about the shape of our cities, I think it is irresponsible to depend on what is not yet invented.

Nano could be a disruptive game changer but shouldn't we as they say, hope for the best but plan for the worst? The precautionary principle, i believe.

The other whole dimension i think you're missing is what the response to your technical progress will be. So pretend you have a magic wand and can advance the next 20 yrs development into one night. Tomorrow, the cost of mining and all those other activities drops to say half of what it was. Do you think folks will mine less, refine less, buy less, drive less, war less, wear less, travel less, etc.? I think Undustrial would say no, i think he'd be right. If you tried to mine the same, competition would lower the price so consumers, sensing an improvement, would buy more. Demand would rise. Personally, i think mining would use the new advantage to attack lower grade ores, increasing our environmental impact. So now we see the real effect of technology is to multiply our impact, not reduce it. I rest my case. ;-) . Bob

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