What IF We Have Fusion Ten Years From Now? Here are 12 Possibilities.

Nuclear fusion has always been the dream of scientists as an ideal energy source, but has so far been elusive after many decades of work. However, two days ago, Lockheed Martin reported that it would have successful nuclear fusion available in a small-sized unit platform about ten years from now.

See:

Skunk Works Compact Fusion Site at Lockheed Martin
Reuters Article on Scientific American: Lockheed Claims Breakthrough on Fusion Energy
Forbes: Lockheed Martin Claims Fusion Breakthrough That Could Change World Forever

If this is true it will change the world as we know it. On the other hand, claims of fusion have always existed somewhere off in the distant future. Is this time any different? We don’t know, but it’s worth considering how it could change the world if this announcement becomes the real deal.

Here are twelve likelihood’s.

1. Desalinated water would become cheap. The deserts of the world could become the farm regions for the world – if located near the sea. Warm regions could grow food year-round. Water woes would be mostly forgotten about and more people could locate in climates which are desirable but currently restricted by water supply. California’s water woes would be gone. So would the Middle East’s.

2. This would be a totally disruptive technology. We would no longer need the grid and would instead have distributed power. Transportation would go fuel cell, electric, and hybrid. We’d have much less need for today’s fossil fuels such as oil, coal, and natural gas and could greatly reduce human induced CO2 emissions. We wouldn’t need wind generators, either. Some solar photovoltaic might still be useful. Buildings which are heated with natural gas could be heated with electricity instead. Air conditioning and refrigeration would become cheap.

3. There would be no need for biofuels. Ships would be powered with fusion units. There is speculation that we could have unlimited flight time for airplanes, too.

4. Regions which are currently being farmed could be returned to the wild.

5. Urbanization could continue with much greater confidence. Today’s ideas of city greenhouses and hydroponic growing centers would be far more feasible with cheap available water and energy, especially along the coastlines.

6. Farms would continue to industrialize, but in modern technical ways, as opposed to today’s political-corporate ways. Tractors and combines would be powered by fuel cells. Fusion could be the energy source for producing nitrogen fertilizer.

7. Most of the developing world could advance far more rapidly if fusion becomes available. Computers, robots and technology would continue to advance at an unprecedented pace. Medical advances and longevity advances would be included.

8. Leisure time for humans would become a greater reality. Some economists already believe that it will become necessary to pay people to “exist” because jobs are not available as we become more efficient, as we use more and more robots, and as computers and communications continue to eliminate jobs. We’d need even fewer people to produce food and basic goods. New models would be needed which would pay people to be artists and service workers and other types of meaningful contributors to society. Economies should do well if cheap energy is available reliably since expensive energy is akin to a tax on industrialized nations, though they’d need to adjust to this disruption.

9. Population would continue to grow and grow with fewer limits to growth. Would we finally have the political will to place a value on the natural world and on biodiversity? Would pollution become our greatest problem, then, or could fusion help us to get rid of pollution? Perhaps it could.

10. We wouldn’t need hydropower anymore, so rivers could be undammed.

11. Perhaps every region or nation could become food secure.

12. Increased globalization: The world would become even smaller. So might the Universe. There would be a greater chance for peace. So be it.

What DO YOU think would happen?

Photo credit: Lockheed Martin.

Statistics on Global Family Farm Size

Over 500 million family farms produce the world’s food.

The vast majority of the world’s farms are small or very small, and in many lower-income countries farm sizes are becoming even smaller.

• Worldwide, farms of less than 1 hectare account for 72 percent of all farms but control only 8 percent of all agricultural land.

• Slightly larger farms between 1 and 2 hectares account for 12 percent of all farms and control 4 percent of the land.

• Farms in the range of 2 to 5 hectares account for 10 percent of all farms and control 7 percent of the land.

• In contrast, only 1 percent of all farms in the world are larger than 50 hectares, but these few farms control 65 percent of the world’s agricultural land. Many of these large, and sometimes very large, farms are family-owned and operated.

The above graphic shows global farms by farm size covering a total of about 460 million farms in 111 countries. (Since this data is difficult to obtain, numbers are estimated.)

The highly skewed pattern of farm sizes at the global level largely reflects the dominance of very large farms in high-income and upper-middle-income countries and in countries where extensive livestock grazing is a dominant part of the agricultural system.

Land is somewhat more evenly distributed in the low-and lower-middle-income countries where more than 95 percent of all farms are smaller than 5 hectares. These farms occupy almost three-quarters of all farm land in the low-income countries and almost two-thirds in the lower- middle income group.

In contrast, farms larger than 50 hectares control only 2 percent and 11 percent, respectively, of the land in these income groups.

Source: FAO.

PBS Video Explains Biohacking / Synthetic Biology

This PBS Newshour video will help bring you up to speed on the subject of biohacking. If your world is mundane, or if you don’t have enough to worry about, I recommend watching it.

You see, private and university labs students are messing with biology. The term is called biohacking. The formal term for biohacking is synthetic biology. They are using labs for projects such as making batteries by using algae. Students are encouraged to follow their curiosity. One entreupeneur is working on a vegan cheese project. Some are using mushrooms to make recyclable building material. Some projects have a “benign” feeling about them, others feel more worrisome.

What started as a fringe science has now become mainstream. The curious are trying to figure out how to partner with life to make the things we need. Projects are going on in “make-shift” labs and garages. The people doing these projects believe that they are in the early stages of a revolution and like to compare what they are doing to the days of early computer designing. They believe that the natural world provides models for man that can teach us to be more productive and creative.

One project is working to make glowing plants by adding DNA from squid. This group has raised a half a million dollars online to help them continue their work. So far the light cast from the experimental plants is dim, but the team expects to make them far brighter after more manipulation.

It’s as easy as using an ink jet printer to produce biological results. Maybe someday body parts can be printed. The sky is the limit for the “bio-curious”.

Others cry caution. Unregulated biology poses large unknown dangers, according to many critics. Is the technology ahead of the sanity? Do the people doing this experimental work know or understand what they are doing and what the unintended consequences might be? Is life sacrosanct? What are the right-ethics?

Family Farm Percent and Size Statistics Across the Globe

This info graphic shows what percent of farms are family farms in the various regions of the globe. It also shows that the family farm size varies greatly in the different regions, which is related to the amount of mechanization. Note that the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations declared this year (2014) the international year of family farming.


credit: IFPRI

Reinert Interview: Artificial Photosynthesis

Today is the second post in this Monday series of subjects covered during my summer 2014 interview of Bill Reinert, recently retired energy engineer for Toyota who played a key role in the development of the Prius and then assumed the role of future transportation planning of alternative-fueled vehicles at Toyota. See his full bio here.

In my opinion, today’s portion of the interview was one of the most interesting of all, because I learned about a subject that is not at the forefront of today’s news – news which is so burdened all of the time with hyped stories about some latest promising new technology with government or other funding behind it. The possibility of producing hydrogen fuel through photosynthesis is certainly exciting. It is most helpful to have an expert energy engineer and technology futurist point us towards this subject which he views as significant in the research arena. Reinert’s description of the application for using the hydrogen which might be created through artificial photosynthesis is unique.

But, before reading today’s interview segment, we need to look at the description by Nate Lewis of “artificial photosynthesis”: …a research frontier involved with the development of an integrated system based on semiconductor nanowires that act as artificial photosynthetic pigments, which bridge a membrane and are coupled to catalysts that both reduce water to hydrogen and oxidize water to oxygen. As you can tell, this is no second grade science experiment and it relies upon the recent advances in nanotechnology.
—Kay M.


K.M.: What can you tell us about artificial photosynthesis?

Reinert: There’s a big consortium centered at CalTech under the principle investigator, Nate Lewis, to do artificial photosynthesis. This is one of the few alternative fuel areas that’s not getting a lot of federal money, but it’s getting a lot of private money, and this private money is (largely) coming from the oil companies. There’s a ton of money being thrown at it, and it looks like they’re making some progress.

It has nothing to do with producing hydrogen for fuel cell cars. It has everything to do with producing low carbon hydrogen to be used at the refinery level to reduce the carbon emissions of gasoline or diesel during the production process. Because when the hydrocrackers start up, they use tons of hydrogen. The hydrogen right now is produced by the steam methane reformation reaction which is pretty effective, but still releases a lot of carbon.

If they can actually start producing hydrogen from photosynthesis, then, they can start getting low carbon gasoline, and that’s what the whole play is all about.

So, of all the things, it seems the furthest away. Make machines act like plants, really? The fuel companies aren’t saying anything about it. Neither are they trying to be green. They’re just trying to comply with regulations and they think that this just might work.
[END]


May not be reprinted without permission.

To see last week’s interview subject of PEAK OIL click here.

Coming next week will be Reinert’s thoughts about “energy environmental sacrifice areas.”

For further information about artificial photosynthesis, I recommend:

1. http://www.osa-opn.org/home/articles/volume_24/february_2013/features/artificial_photosynthesis_saving_solar_energy_for/#.VDvtKFboY_U

2. http://spie.org/x106752.xml

3. This video:

4. http://www.timesofisrael.com/2-scientists-get-1m-worlds-biggest-alternate-fuel-prize/