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June, 2010
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Anthony
Anthony June 14, 2010 1:00pm
so, there's this oil spill going on. and while BP and their sub-contractors can argue all they like about who gets blame for lovely things like skipping all sorts of important checks, the reality is that we all helped cause it. we all help supply the demand that drives BP (and folks like them) to cut corners to maximize their profits on obviously risky practices. we can do better.

nuclear power in the states is a mess. we stopped approving new reactor technology a few decades ago. newer technology produces vastly less waste, and, more importantly, the waste remains dangerous for years instead of centuries. it's not theoretical, either: these designs are in production in europe and asia today. for a long time i thought our best bet at an energy shift away from fossil fuels was nuclear power, as a transitional step until the efficiency of truly green energy sources got to the point where they could supply the bulk of our consumption.

turns out my thinking on the subject is more than a little out of date. i just discovered the Land Art Generator Initiative. among other neat things, they've got a pair of very interesting maps showing land areas needed to power the world with entirely wind or solar generation. the wind map was pretty much in line with what i'd expected: there isn't really any reasonable way to get that much of the world to produce off-shore wind plants. that's not to say they shouldn't be part of a mixed-source strategy (and i do love seeing the windmills), but even getting a substantial fraction of this coverage would be a stretch.
the solar map, however, is a very different story. this coverage is downright practical. given a decent distribution, it seems like we can do much better than this, in fact - and this is 2030 estimated consumption.

while this was a great find overall, it's somewhat depressing that the only thing stopping us from entirely green power today is political will and moneyed interests. we can do better. i think we're in the middle of a great object lesson of why we need to do better.