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Energy Ideas and Realities: 80% Clean by 2035?

The President says he wants 80 percent clean energy by 2035. How will we really get there?

Membrane and catalyst components involved in engineering man-made "plants" for energy conversion, provided by the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis. (solarfuelshub.org)

World events, Egypt, and snow storms have grabbed our attention hard since the State of the Union address.

But one pledge – promise, goal – from President Obama still rings:  That by the year 2035, eighty percent of America’s electricity will come from clean energy.

It was a careful pledge. It included natural gas and “clean coal” in the eighty percent equation. But even so, it’s a big pledge – for a country that overall has not been ambitious for clean energy.

Can we do it? Will we do it? And how?

We speak with Caltech energy guru Nathan Lewis, on President Obama’s big clean energy pledge.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests:

Nathan Lewis, director of the Department of Energy’s Innovation Hub at the California Institute of Technology — the Joint Center for Artificial Photosynthesis. The center is researching simulating photosynthesis for energy production. He’s also a professor of chemistry at CalTech.

Steven Mufson, energy correspondent for the Washington Post.

Here’s what President Obama said in the 2011 State of the Union Address about Nathan Lewis’ work — and the wider race for a clean energy future:

That’s what Americans have done for over 200 years: reinvented ourselves. And to spur on more success stories like the Allen Brothers, we’ve begun to reinvent our energy policy. We’re not just handing out money. We’re issuing a challenge. We’re telling America’s scientists and engineers that if they assemble teams of the best minds in their fields, and focus on the hardest problems in clean energy, we’ll fund the Apollo projects of our time.

At the California Institute of Technology, they’re developing a way to turn sunlight and water into fuel for our cars. At Oak Ridge National Laboratory, they’re using supercomputers to get a lot more power out of our nuclear facilities. With more research and incentives, we can break our dependence on oil with biofuels, and become the first country to have a million electric vehicles on the road by 2015.

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  • Yar From Somerset, KY

    I watched NOVA on PBS last night. They had and interesting segment using carbon nano-tubes to reduce the pressure of hydrogen storage. They presented a novel approach for making nano-tubes; by carbonizing chicken feathers.

    Figuring out hydrogen storage will revolutionize our world energy balance. Many people are vested in the status-quo and will use their power to avoid change.

    Our world can support 6 plus billion people only with cheap energy. Hydrogen seems to be the best element for mobile energy storage.

    Can you imagine a 747 flying on hydrogen? It is hard to imagine a fuel tank full of burnt chicken feathers holding enough hydrogen to fly. This is the kind of dream that will make us free. Free at last.

  • Beverly

    We WON’T get there, as long as there are Republicans.

    They don’t care how poisonous the air gets; the air that they, their mothers, & their babies must breathe. They have their priorities. Only one thing matters to them . . . the almighty dollar.

  • Yar From Somerset, KY

    I want to present a concept free to use but that is copyright protected by me.
    We use energy to produce clean water, and it is a scarce resource. Why not use the depth of the ocean to purify and desalinate water. Reverse osmosis is forcing water through a membrane at high pressure. The difference in pressure of a fresh water column and a salt water column at some depth will create enough pressure that pure water will flow through a membrane simply by the force of gravity.
    I have not ever heard anyone approach this problem this way, but I think it will work. Go for it, just don’t try and patent the idea to keep others from doing the same. We need the water. California is the perfect place to try they have deep ocean close to large numbers of people.

  • Ariel

    We need federal subsidies to help these nascent technologies ramp up quickly–to build the infrastructures that will enable US innovation to reach meaningful production for consumers. Precedent for this exists: the nuclear industry received subsidies in its early stages, and federal funds built the interstate highways that made expansion of oil and gas production even more profitable. Funding will take considerable political will, since international and corporate forces are aligned to defend the need for oil and gas at all costs, to the peril of the entire planet.

    Meanwhile, interim steps are imperative: emphasize production of energy-saving devices, ancillary sources (solar, wind) to power some devices at the end-user level and to power residential areas. Federal funds for retrofitting buildings and increasing energy efficiency. Change building code requirements to require energy-efficiency building methods and use of products, appliances, etc. that save/conserve energy. Increase funds for universities and other schools to train workers to install/maintain these. Business grants to retool exisiting factories and create new jobs to produce these new products. Aim for a 200% or more increase in use of solar/wind energy sources to reduce demand for oil/gas/coal while other technolgies develop. This should be an all-out “war” to preserve the planet.

  • Brian C.

    We need to educate ourselves and the leaders will follow. I have been on the bandwagon of carbon capping and government incentives but it’s easy to get disillusioned with the potential to corrupt good ideas and greenwash an uninformed public.

    Climate change and energy alternatives are extremely complex. People need something they can implement themselves to promote carbon savings and radically new technology.

    My humble suggestion is called biochar. It is a material with amazing properties which people are learning to apply to a number of important areas.

    I’m going to look into those chicken feathers too! :-). Brian (Boston)

  • Arnold

    Oh, and the Democruds will get us there with clean coal and corn-based ethanol, right?

  • http://ibelieveinbutter.wordpress.com Soli

    And why, in all this talk, does none of the discussion seem to include energy CONSERVATION?

    New Haven, CT

  • Arnold

    Amen, conservation would be so much easier and more productive. There are sexy investments going on here, variable pricing, smart metering, device connectivity; and yet the media and politicians ignore at best, and at worst are following the money to clean energy dead ends, what is right in front of us.

  • Dean

    Posted by Arnold:
    “Oh, and the Democruds will get us there with clean coal and corn-based ethanol, right?”

    Um, those are more Republican toys, Arnold.

    But you are essentially right: We will not get there by finding new sources of energy.

    We cannot replace fossil fuels with clean energy. Fossil fuels are solar energy concentrated over millions of years. There is no way we can extract so much energy by any clean technology. We don’t have anything as powerful as millions of sun years to borrow from except the atom, and there are many risks and side effects from that, too.

    That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t try, though. It will help boost our economy, if nothing else. …Or at least, China’s economy.

    What we MUST do is consume less energy.

    We must rein in our standard of living to a point at which it becomes sustainable. It worked for ten of thousand years of civilization until the industrial revolution, and it would work again.

  • Charles A. Bowsher

    I am in KY. My brother-in-law who works in the coal industry. I have to say that including coal in a “Clean Energy” formula will not work. Come and look at what used to be our mountains. Try eating our mercury poisoned fish. Clean coal is decades away.

    What happened with the “Bloom Energy” magic energy box shown on 60 minutes last year?

  • WINSTON SMITH

    I can tell you that one thing that won’t get us there is a carbon credit market where carbon credits are bought by polluters and sold by carbon absorbers. The investment bankers will simply use this new “commodity” to enrich themselves, create “value” out of thin air, and then foist a new type of financial collapse on us. And Al Gore, who lives in a MANSION that comsumes many many times what an average family consumes, will pay himself thousands of dollars to plant one tree, take credit for being carbon neutral, and continue to live in another world far from the average person. “Do as I say, not as I do”. Or to paraphrase Leonna Helmsey, “only the little people should use less energy”.

  • BHA – Vermont

    Bush said “We are addicted to oil” and did NOTHING about it. Typical of an oil guy.

  • Al Dorman

    (Al Dorman)
    Tom, please lay it out: How do we get to solar (which has been proven the on feasible clean source) from here. And isn’t “addicted to foreign oil” just a PR line for so-called domestic oil companies?

  • Philip

    Hey, can you ask your guest to say a few words about the boondoggle that is corn-based ethanol?

    I’m all for renewable energy, but I find it utterly ridiculous that we’re (optimistically) getting only slightly more net energy out of the process than we’re putting in… for a fuel that burns less efficiently in our vehicles and shortens engine life in any vehicle not specifically designed with ethanol in mind.

  • Mark in Cary

    Sorry, but call me a skeptic. None of this will EVER happen in this country. The American Oligarchy will NEVER allow it. EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER, EVER!

  • WINSTON SMITH

    I live in Vermont, where a proposed windmill project on one of the Green Mountain ridgelines has been debated for several years. But it is no closer to being built than when it was first proposed. Vermonters are very good at talking a good game, but we don’t seem to put our money where our mouths are when it actually comes time to step up to the plate and build a windmill. No one wants any windmills in our backyard. But, they have to be in someone’s backyard. I guess when windmills are made out of clear plexiglass so that they can’t be seen, and make absolutely no noise so that they can’t be heard, and when the power can be transmitted wirelessly like a wireless internet connection so that we don’t have to lay any power lines, that we may consider building a windmill.

    • ebrunar

      I don’t even get it: I find windmills majestic, beautiful, awe-inspiring!

      We put up with tar roads full of noisy, dangerous cars everywhere, but a windmill on that hilltop, good gracious me!

  • Alexander

    I wonder how much more achievable our energy goals become when we look at reforming our food and agriculture system, which I believe is our top energy consuming machine. It seems like a simple change to incentivize less meat consumption, the production of which consumes TONS of energy

  • Arnold

    Corn-based ethanol is raising food prices, raising gas prices and lining the pockets of Obama’s cornbelt buddies so he can get re-elected to do more damage.

  • http://none Jane Addams

    Let’s Talk Turkey on Climate NOW. The roof is coming down around our heads. We can’t wait until 2030. Thanks.

  • Mika

    Can you and your guest get the terminology right, it’s WIND TURBINE and NOT “windmills”! We’re not taking about Dutch windmills that generate energy used for grain mills. We’re talking about wind turbines that generate energy.

    For Obama to include natural gas is appalling. Although it reduces GHG emissions, the production is polluting and harms so many communities in this country and Canada.

    The goal is never going to be accomplished in this country because we don’t have the political will nor the culture to implement clean energy.

  • Terry

    Greetings Tom and Guests,
    We have had the capability for decades. The established ‘energy providers’ have consistently blocked, by various means, the progress of clean energy capabilities, for their own greed for money and power. How many wind-generators have you known that have polluted the air and water with billions of barrels of oil? How many solar panels have caused the respiratory problems of coal plants and gas engines. Yet, these same polluters have gotten open and disguised subsidies, to continue killing and maiming people. Take all subsidies away from the established polluters, and invest it into the real clean energy that is already available. Thanks, Terry

  • Arnold

    I would love the guest to discuss the inefficiencies of our current electricity distribution system and its balkanized layout.

  • Claus from Denmark

    What about increasing EFFICIENCY ? Fooling around in SUVs is wasting resources, European cars are much more effecient. Saving energy will not necessarily mean a reduced quality of life.

  • Dean

    Posted by Arnold
    “Corn-based ethanol is raising food prices, raising gas prices and lining the pockets of Obama’s cornbelt buddies so he can get re-elected to do more damage.”

    Again, Arnold, corn-based ethanol is not a Democratic subsidy. It is all about big business, and not about the ecology, and it has been around since long before the Obama administration.

  • Charles A. Bowsher

    I got read on air!

    Yar @ 9:03 Your concept came to me a year or so ago. My thought for forcing the seawater through the membrane at the pressures needed was based on capillary action of fluid in a tube. I think I had heard about a GE project in the Mideast where they were using incredible amounts of energy to do desalinization.

    Ariel @ 9:11 the Nuclear industry still receives subsidies from the government in the form of the Nuclear Accident Liability Insurance Pool which protects the industry from its full liability in the case of an accident.

    Alexander @ 11:21 One of our countries largest users of energy is actually our military, in fact it might be the largest single consumer.

    Amen to the guest speaking now about Solar. Somebody needs to go back and look at what was being done during the Carter Administration with alternative energies. The passive solar building designs were decades ahead of their time. Lets pull it out of mothballs and update. Here in Kentucky we actually had a KY Dept of Energy that had workshops on solar design, put out great materials on building passive solar.

  • Pat from Lexington, MA

    Double or triple the output at our existing nuclear power plants. Adding new nuclear reactors at locations where we already have them, especially at locations which still have abundant water supplies, is the only big idea that uses proven technology, experience and leverages the existing power grid.

    Nuclear is the 80% or 90% solution which can maintain and improve our quality of life.

  • nlpnt

    One idea I’ve heard for getting around the NIMBY effect on solar and wind is to install panels and windmills in the Interstate highway medians.

  • http://www.sesenergy.com/ John Carlton-Foss

    The costs to process fuel for nuclear power plants are commonly not taken into consideration when claiming that nuclear powered electricity is “clean.” The conventional myth is that nuclear yields so much power above what is invested that it is clean. That is that the net gain from nuclear is perhaps 95% or maybe even more. This is a false myth. The net gain is actually about 10% plus or minus a few percent. Note that production of nuclear fuel typically would be done with fossil fuels, since hydroelectric power is pretty much already committed.

  • Steven Valleau

    So does that mean 4% by next year, 7% by next year? More big talk from Barak Obama. It can be done but put a windmill in front of this windbag and I’m an Obama supporter. There’s not enough political courage out there at any level.

  • bob

    There is a builder in Townsend MA who builds netzero housing at market rates

    Super insulation, solar heat and hot water.

    Deep energy retrofits should be better publicized and subsidized. Great energy savings there and jobs in both of these areas.

    Carpenter Ashby MA

  • http://ebenmarkowski.com eben Markowski

    Eben from Panton, Vermont.

    We have to make conservation a huge part of the portfolio. T boone Pickens says we (US culture) imports 13 million barrels of oil a day, 5 million barrels of that is through OPEC. Can’t we conserve ourselves away from this at least? We waste too much… 25% of our food, lights left on, trash filling oceans. Everyday americans need to stop waiting for politics and industry to tell us what we already know we need to do. THINK every time you start your car, fill your disposable coffee cup, or buy some junky plastic toy. The elephant in the room is that our consumption demands are beyond the scope of any energy supply. No energy alternative will ever look viable if we don’t substantially change our bad habits. You want small Government? show some personal responsibility!

  • Marv in Newton, MA

    What about other other energy technologies:
    o Geothermal
    o Tides
    o Nuclear Fusion (it’s been 20 years away for the last 50+ years)

  • A Listener

    Hey Tom.

    Can your guest speak to new nuclear developments? For instance Thorium Nuclear reactors that are much more efficient than Uranium Reactors and produce 99.9% less waste?

    Can you have him also speak to a new claim to cold fusion found by Italian scientists?

    thanks.

  • Dan Pinard

    Why do we not talk about materials that can transmit power more efficiently? If we were to create a high-temp (Tc = +35 to +50 degree) superconductors….you could seriously reduce greenhouse gases, cut oil use, and create whole new industries we could sell to the world. I am very aware that this requires a lot of R&D, and could be a ways off, but why is this not mentioned, considered or encouraged? More nuclear plants are quite a ways off, but so are superconductors in everyday power generation.
    Oh, and I consider myself a staunch conservative.

  • Wayne Benson

    What about tidal generation?
    I’m in Braintree, MA

  • A Listener

    Hey Tom.

    Can you ask your guest what can a person in college do to enter a career in energy research?

    I’m a Software Engineer, but I have always been fascinated by energy production since I was a kid. I would love to switch careers and devote myself to pure research to solve this pressing real world problem. Yet, I don’t have a nice map to get there.

  • Ellen Dibble, Northampton, MA

    Excuse me if I missed something. But I’m hearing that converting solar energy into something like GAS would be “clean”????? It might be politically and environmentally clean, but aren’t we having MORE THAN ENOUGH problems climate-wise with the petroleum usage already available? Add the solar energy and turn it into something else that will cook the planet — at no cost?
    Hey!

  • Ann Boyajian

    What about geothermal?

  • Longfeather

    Our Power Company, Dominion, keeps sending out surveys, that are like Orangeman Speak, just like Egyptians didn’t trust Mubarack. If you live in territory of landlords, they get all the tax cuts, and they leave rental property to degrade, go to parties about their charity, and blame hardship on people who have to live in their property Check out the Old Dominion, and any city on down south and determine what savings of new insulations, and upgrade of rental property would do for loss of power in the people the ‘discount’ but count on. Up North they know how to take care of self, but if you live in a landlord abusive, or ‘benign neglect’ area and are kept rattled by their minions, so end up talking to the special people who blame everything on the innocent, well then you know what ‘bad accoustics’ are, an attitude, that they call the ‘wind blowing the stink away.’ Can someone in a foreign country do a rough estimate of our loss?

  • Marv in Newton, MA

    What would you predict for energy demand in 2035 compared to today? Will/can energy conservation balance growth in demand? Because energy demand correlates with GDP, will our nation’s economy continue to grow at historical rates?

    Wouldn’t it make sense, in terms of starting today, that all new and replacement energy sources should be clean?

  • Jeff

    We are doing it all. 192 windmills are 2 miles west of me. A local lumber milling company runs on water power, but their dam needs to be replaced. Fort Drum is converting to biomass. I know of a woodshop that has 63 solar panels in the snowbelt. They get cleaned off when it snows, like driveways…

    Today the president is at Penn State where they are going to switch to natural gas from coal. Natural gas is better for non-point heating like homes. That coal facility is in the middle of a university of over 50000 people. Are the students and professors healthy?
    Coal is clean, relative to when I was a kid. Look at the steam from mine-mouth generation plants in western PA. Stop pollution transfer by cutting 300 feet off the stacks.

    We just need more of the above.

  • ThresherK

    Come and look at what used to be our mountains. Try eating our mercury poisoned fish.

    Charles, more should be acknowledged about the schism between making the burning of coal “clean”, and absolutely trashing the places where coal is mined by mountaintop removal. Do Massey and the other coal monoliths so own the regulatory systems in their states that there is no competition to be had?

  • Peter

    Not much talk about how much more expensive green/renewable energy is. An illustration of just how much more expensive solar power is comes from Hawaii (ssemingly an ideal location); their energy prices are very high and yet solar accounts for ~0.1% of their energy production (2008).

    When we spend more on enrgy, we have less to spend on other things we value (education, infrastructure, defense, health, debt).

  • Marv in Newton, MA

    We’re talking about enormous capital investment here. In the decades before Three Mile Island, many utilities suffered or came close to bankruptcy in their nuclear programs. Can government “incentives” suffice to encourage the research, development, and construction of all of the “clean” energy technologies? Will the government have to nationalize the energy industry [I don't really see this as a possibility]?

  • Mike

    What about feces? Recycling and burning?

    Newton MA

  • Worried for the country (MA)

    John Carlton-Foss,
    I’ve never heard that argument regarding nuclear. Could you please provide a source? How do you define clean? Lack of C02 emissions?

    There are several new nuclear technologies in development that are much more efficient and are safer than the current plants. Some of these will even be able to burn off the bulk of the existing nuclear waste.

    Right now it looks like nuclear is the only scalable solution in the near term. Whatever will win will have to be cheaper than coal to be successful.

    It looks like wind is a big loser. It will never be cost competitive with the alternatives. For baseline power you need the source 24/7. Therefore, you need to include storage and/or backup sources in the economic calculations.

  • Pat at Lexington, MA

    Large scale solar and wind would be terribly destructive to the environment. Forget just the birds, we are talking about a need to cover a vast amount of land and water with industrial scale equipment crisscrossed with the power lines to distribute it. Small scale solar and wind are great solutions to particular problems, but they don’t scale without their own environmental impacts.

    Just look at the example of hydro power. It was heralded as having little or no impact on the environment, until people realized that many dams had destroyed fisheries that were more valuable than the electricity being provided.

  • Marv in Newton, MA

    How about space-based solar power collectors that beam power down to add to the power grid. This would eliminate the 12-hour-average solar blackout every day as well as interruptions due to weather.

  • Everett Barber

    Excellent program!

    While your Cal Tech prof did mention ‘energy efficiency’ energy conservation really, not enough is made of that. Put a more concise way, too much is made of the supply side of the energy picture and not enough of the demand side.

    Using less is a lot more effective, and less capitol intensive than implementing new sources.

    It is possible to use less and still have a good standard of living. Look at other developed nations that use 2/3 less energy per capita than the US and still have a standard of living that is at least as good as ours. n.b. we are ranked 8th in the world in quality of life.

    Your other callers have hit a key point. There is not the political will in the US to do anything other than blunder along as we have.

  • TomK

    This gives me such deja vu – most discussions of getting off oil could have been taken word for word from the time of the oil shocks in the 70s and 80s.

    It’s as simple as this. The price of oil is cyclic. When it’s high, we try to get off oil. When it falls, we dismantle all those efforts and start sucking up the oil again. Not gonna change without political courage. IOW, it’s not gonna change.

    BTW, “clean coal” is just a con to keep the coal industry going, on the level of claiming that tax cuts for the rich help the middle class.

  • Rick Evans

    David Cash? Isn’t Massachusetts the “best and brightest” state that corporate welfared millions of tax breaks to Evergreen Solar to create jobs at the old Fort Devins plant ONLY to have Evergreen pull up stakes and flee to China.

  • Brad

    Check out Solectria Renewables, founded right here in Mass., already up and running, ready to go and expand. Products made right here in the USA.

    Investors, marketeers, get on board!!

    http://www.solren.com/index.html

    (I’m not an employee or connected to this one company in any way. Just an interested citizen)

  • ThresherK

    Great science guests today, but when you have a scientist like
    Professor Lewis pretty much say he wasn’t about the politics, “balance” might not be best represented by a sound clip about how ANWR will save us all, and that energy is thisclose to being over regulated, from a hack like Lamar Alexander.

  • Kevin

    Please let your guest from CalTech Prof. Nathan Lewis know that he should volunteer to be a spokesperson more often for this topic.

    He’s a scientist who, from listening to his presentation, really knows how to communicate to an informed lay audience. I think it is important for him to strive to find as many opportunities as possible to represent the scientific and engineering and R&D world (in this technical area) to the public.

    Tom, great show, including a call-in from a State government leader in this area. That really shows important people are listening to your show.

    Thanks,
    Kevin

  • Scott

    We waste so much energy now, knowing the damage we do to the planet to harness that energy. I wonder how much we’ll waste once we think it’s harmless. Conservation must be part of the discussion.

  • TomK

    Lewis is a superb scientist, but, sorry, this is ALL about politics. Just like we can’t stop the banksters from taking all the wealth while they have bought our pols, we can’t have an energy policy when the oil and gas and coal cos have bought our pols.

    Just look at the incredibly successful campaign, financed by far right corporatists, to discredit the scientific evidence of man-made climate change. Any idea or technology that threatens their wealth will similarly be attacked. The propaganda will be that it’s “job-killing” and expensive. Why do they really care? Because it affects their profits.

    Always, follow the money.

    Tom in Boston

  • Ann, Barrington, RI

    1) Again! A fantastically INFORMATIVE SHOW!!

    2) Yet, (also “informatively”) we heard from the Republican(s?) who want to DISempower the EPA (I think the EPA; a major environmental arm of the gov’t.)

    3) I often send links of this show’s various topics to friends, just using the URL (?) address via email; I guess others use Facebook or Twitter.

    4) I’m thinking, maybe a lot of us who liked this show could purposefully send links of this show to friends; and ask THEM to spread the word, and so on, and so on!! Otherwise, thanks to Faux News, when the next election comes along, MORE of #2, above, WILL happen. One reason to send THIS link in particular is HOW CLEARLY Dr. Nathan Lewis spelled out the ENTIRE SCENARIO. THEN, OnPoint’s audio clips of environmental detractors were PERFECTLY selected!

    5) Anyone want to join me in SPREADING THE WORD? THANKS! (No need to reply — I respect everyone’s privacy!)

  • Alan Corin

    We are in a very coupled economy as we painfully learned in the fall of 2008. How much money would we save in our health care system from grave illnesses like cancer, lung disorders and heart disease if we no longer had the water and air pollution caused by fossil fuel use? What are current estimates for the number of people who die but require extended longterm care before they die? Would such costs, if saved make a significant dent in the money needed to convert to current clean energy sources and develop future ones. “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” How many pounds are we talking about?

    [BTW, I often wonder how many lives would be saved if we, instead of engaging in wars on foreign soil, we spent those billions on converting to and developing clean energy. It would be the sum of ~ 6,000 soldiers (Iraq & Afganistan) AND, tens or hundreds of thousands who have died from pollution related diseases.]

  • Pat from Lexington, MA

    Quote: “We must rein in our standard of living to a point at which it becomes sustainable. It worked for ten of thousand years of civilization until the industrial revolution, and it would work again.”

    No, you reign in your standard of living, I like the civilization that we have created. “Civilization” is not just about subsistence living and getting by. I like having heat in the Winter and air conditioning in the Summer. I like clean running water. I like having the ability to communicate with other people across the world. I like being able to have a job that doesn’t run down my body in 40 years. I like being able to look for work miles away from my home and not have to move. I like being able to work from home. I could probably ditch the TV as entertainment, but I like having a society that can afford entertainment for the masses that doesn’t involve two chickens scratching at each other.

    If you want to glorify the past, fine. I wish there were fewer people already in the places with the good weather, so I could afford to move there. Otherwise I wouldn’t trade my smartphone for a pitchfork even if you gave me a goat to do it.

  • Starr Brantingham

    Great topic and guest today. I am always amazed that whenever I hear nuclear power discussion, hardly anyone mentions the nuclear waste. Do Americans generally know what happens to that waste? Is there progress being made? How many nuclear power plants exist in the US? And, where are all the waste containment sites?
    I wish I had called in to ask this question. Mr. Lewis sounds like a good one to speak about this.

    • mlacrosse

      Sorry I missed the discussion, glad I found your comment.

    • mlacrosse

      Wish I had heard the program. Starr, glad to see your comment.

  • Sam Wilson

    Even if we dont allow our cars and SUVs not to idle for prolonged periods (5 mins max) we can save some good amount of cash and reduce energy consumption, however people almost never think of doing it!!

  • Terence Baz

    I listened to Nathan Lewis this morning with great interest. I enjoyed the clarity of his thought. I am a theologian & completed a doctorate on ecology in 2003.

    There is one comment he made that I would like to follow up on. He said that we need to use technology in order to maintain our current level of living. I do not disagree with him but we need to take into account the human spirit and it’s ability to change. As a scientist he will disourse within the framework of its method but I have long argued that profound change will not happen until humans within their spirit recognize the need to adjust from their current levels of consumption.

    I believe that when ordinary folk understand such a necessity, they do adjust. For instance, the change from incandescent light bulbs to flourescent ones. There has also been much discussion about the consumption of locally grown, unprocessed products rather than those that are not.

    Another change I believe must happen is a reduction in the consumption of meat, to be replaced with grain. I stand to be corrected but I am told the ratio of energy needed to produce the same quantity between the two is 11:1. This coupled with the environmental issues of mass produced meat, make it necessary to change our present lifestyle. The human spirit is more than capable of making such changes when the issues are clear before them.

    Nathan Lewis would probably categorize such adjustments to the area of political will but I believe it must go the deeper level of the human spirit to be truly effective.

    Terence Baz
    South Glens Falls, NY

  • Mike Utah

    Every President since the 50′s has promised clean energy. But of course their answer is always new regulations for industry and new taxes. Which is always a ploy to make one company like the ethanol producers way rich, and tax to death another industry like the petroleum producers. You all need to wake up and realize that government is only out for more power, and more money for them and their friends. They are not here to help the common man. When any politician says he’s doing this for your benefit, he’s only talking to the special interests that are a part of his gang. They are only trying to control every industry, and let their friends have the monopoly rights. You are a fool if you believe they are trying to help you in any way.

  • TomK

    There’s some truth in what you say, Mike, but I think you have the tail and the dog confused. The corporations are running wild following our insane, job-killing deregulation binge. The corporations are “only out for more power” and wealth, and sure are no friends of the common man. They aim to offshore jobs and funnel all the GDP to the wealthy.

    The tricky part is that the deregulated, ultra-powerful, trans-national corporations have bought the government, so their actions and gvt actions are hard to tell apart.The solution is to take back gvt and have it really regulate and tax these monsters,instead of doing their bidding.

  • Thoreau

    Your guest said that one of the easier measures we could take to save energy is to invest in a more capable and efficient Grid. I want to ask about the loss of energy on the Grid. Your guest says it’s about 8%.? Please clarify this.
    I frequently hear a much larger number. Perhaps he meant to say that 8% loss is an efficiency we can achieve by investing in our aging infrastructure.
    Someone last night on the PBS Nova – David Pogue program (mentioned in the first comment) suggested that these energy losses on the Grid can be 40% or 50%. This may or may not include (additional?) power that is lost because generated supply exceeds demand as may occur at night. One strategy is that we need to find ways to store energy we generate that would otherwise be wasted. We could employ large scale batteries for example.
    I love the new technology, but I may drown under the melting ice before the elected morons and shills for corporate interests who hold the majority in congress choose to INVEST in the future. Don’t get me started.

    An efficient grid could itself be a kind of battery. A zero net energy home for example would sell as much power back to the grid as it draws when there is no sun or wind available for the power generating systems in the house. Listeners in my neck of the woods interested in efficient buildings should check out NESEA. (The Northeast Sustainable Energy Association)

  • Rachel

    Why isn’t clean energy marketed to people to make it appealing? Stop talking about global warming, dependence on foreign energy, etc…. because people have their heads in the sand on all that. The bottled water companies did a great job of getting people to buy a mostly useless product. The human species responds to marketing, not knowledge – sad, but true. Make it appealing and the sheep will gather.

  • Yar From Somerset, KY

    My plan for still hot nuclear waste is to melt it into glass pellets and insert the pellets into wells in tar sands. The sand’s oil would heat up and then could be pumped out. Carbon is a great absorber for for radiation. Glass will keep the radioactive material from migrating.
    We are straining at the gnat and swallowing the camel, every coal slurry and ash waste site are only temporary solutions, so why the double standard for nuclear power?

  • Joseph

    From the first a faulty premise. Natural gas and coal are clean energies? Not hardly. Natural gas in a fossil fuel that will do nothing to abate global warming. Coal is a worse than oil as far as carbon dioxide emissions relative to energy output. This without all the energy and water use required to make the coal “clean,” which actually just means removing other pollutants prior to the power plant. These pollutants still are released and must go somewhere. Upping use of these fuels is not a clean energy program. It may have economic benefits for America since switching to these fuels from oil would lessen oil importation.

    Dean got this correct. “We cannot replace fossil fuels with clean energy. Fossil fuels are solar energy concentrated over millions of years. There is no way we can extract so much energy by any clean technology. We don’t have anything as powerful as millions of sun years to borrow from except the atom, and there are many risks and side effects from that, too.”

    The industrial revolution, our economy, increasingly the entire world’s economy and lifestyle is based on using solar energy stored over 100s of thousands of years (fossil fuels) over decades.

    Dean once more “We must rein in our standard of living to a point at which it becomes sustainable. It worked for ten of thousand years of civilization until the industrial revolution, and it would work again.”

    The problem is that at the time of the industrial revolution the world population was approximately 1.5 billion. It is only the industrial revolution, and later green revolution, that enabled our population to reach the current approximately 7 billion, with 9 billion projected by 2050. Your solution would only work with a relatively quick 75% decrease in population.

    Critics of the ethanol from corn industry have it correct. When looked at as a whole body diagram more oil is consumed than is produced. It is just a political gain for farm state politicians and price supports for corn producers.

    WINSTON SMITH ‘I can tell you that one thing that won’t get us there is a carbon credit market where carbon credits are bought by polluters and sold by carbon absorbers. The investment bankers will simply use this new “commodity” to enrich themselves, create “value” out of thin air, and then foist a new type of financial collapse on us. And Al Gore, who lives in a MANSION that comsumes many many times what an average family consumes, will pay himself thousands of dollars to plant”one tree, take credit for being carbon neutral, and continue to live in another world far from the average person. “Do as I say, not as I do”. Or to paraphrase Leonna Helmsey, “only the little people should use less energy”.’
    I loved your comment Winston. I would go further. Global warming, pollution, does not see or heed any political borders. All of this discussion is centered on trying to come up with ideas that would let Americans continue their present rate of energy consumption without truly significant reductions in our lifestyle. Then will we tell billions of Chinese and Indians “Do as we say, not as we do?”

    A Listener “Can you have him also speak to a new claim to cold fusion found by Italian scientists?”

    I have dealt with many cranks in my life. I do not care to deal with another.

    Nuclear power plants (meaning fission) can produce a lot of electrical power with very little air emissions. Unfortunately these are expensive, do and always will produce deadly thousand year waste, and are only appropriate for point source production of large amounts of energy.

    To hope to maintain our current lifestyle with truly clean energy what we will need is what now just looks like dreams, i.e. practical nuclear fusion power.

  • Ann, Barrington, RI

    I heard an idea once: how about Wind Turbines down the divider lanes on all our Federal Highways where the amount of wind would make it sensible, AND where the highway is NOT under a known (or highly suspected) bird flyway?

    The idea was that the noise in those spots is already high.

    Each state could get equal amounts to start with.

    (There are wind turbines, long, long, long lines of them, in Sicily, especially in the remote farm areas. They are GORGEOUS!) The Danes have also figured out how to have wind turbines out at sea AND on land, sometimes owned by individual towns. They, TOO, have figured out how to make entire facilities (including more than just the turbines) BEAUTIFUL public structures! There is a wonderful aesthetic challenge in all these projects, and we do NOT have to re-invent everything, but getting overseas to SEE what other countries are doing (or watching great PBS shows about the topic) might help block SOME of the resistance, which I think DOES have to do with a FEAR of what all these new structures will look like.

    Many people posting have written so well about our biggest problem facing us: entrenched special interests with more access to political power than that held by We, the Citizens of the United States!

    To the poster who spoke about Penn State switching from coal to natural gas. I just don’t have the stamina to write again about the fact that Pennsylvania’s water supply is extremely threatened by the FRACKING process that extracts natural gas from, in PA and surrounding areas, the Marcellus Shale. No Regulation? We should KNOW who advocates for that!!! No Regulation can mean Poisoned Water! No Regulation, my eye!!!!!

  • TomK

    Maybe we could bury the toxic nuclear waste on Wall St, along with the toxic assets.

  • Ann, Barrington, RI

    ….. sorry …… that (4:33 p.m.) sounded SO bad, like fingernails on a blackboard….. “power held by We, the Citizens”……

    What to do? “by Us, the Citizens”?

    I wish our problems were only problems of bad grammar, like this!

  • Marc

    Is the reduction of greenhouse gases the only solution to look at. I’m all for conservation and cleaner energy sources that make sense. Plus, I think buying truly greener products are a way to vote that manufacturers will track.

    But given the growth in energy demands by China, India, and others, I suspect that even if we reduced our emissions by 75%, the net for the globe would still go up. I missed the show, but every time I hear a show describing climate problems it all sounds hopeless. I can understand why those sounding the alarm are described by many as kooks or worse.

    So, do scientists deep down think it’s pretty much hopeless to avoid a climate disaster? And if so, is there no research or creative ideas in areas other than conservation and alternative energy? I know many of them sound nutty, but no more impractical sounding than several posts I’ve read here.

    • Erik

      China is working very hard developing sustainable energy systems and closed-loop consumption patterns. They have decided to accept the fact that there will come a time when fossil fuels are no longer an option.

      If US society as a whole fails to decide quickly on the components of the future energy mix, it will lose more time putting in place the WWII-scale industrial/commercial/financial effort needed to retool, implying that it puts its faith in its ability to buy the energy systems from other producers when the time comes.

      Given this situation in the US, the Chinese are probably right to believe that buying a couple decades of lead time in all the capital and human investment required by the development and wide-scale implementation of these technologies will be worth it.

  • http://www.heetma.com Lee

    “But I’m hearing that converting solar energy into something like GAS would be “clean”?????”

    The idea is it’s a carbon neutral way to get a liquid fuel. The artificial photosynthesis creates a hydrocarbon fuel, but the carbon comes from atmospheric carbon rather than fossil carbon. The devil is in the details though, if the carbon comes from captured carbon from burning coal you’re still releasing fossil carbon, just a little more energy per unit of carbon.

  • http://www.stopspewingcarbon.org Meg Sheehan

    Yes, we need clean energy.

    No, we don’t need to burn trees and garbage to make that so-called “clean energy.” Until we change state and federal laws that provide billions in taxpayer and ratepayer subsidies for “clean energy” made by burning biomass, that’s all we’ll get.

    Now, 50% of the so-called “clean” energy in the U.S. comes from incinerators that burn trees and garbage for electricity. These are highly polluting power facilities that emit the most toxic chemicals known to science-particulates, dioxin, lead, carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. They dry up rivers using water for cooling turbines and burn trees from state and national forests.

    Clean energy doesn’t come out of a smokestack. Biomass incinerators should be removed from state and federal subsidy programs or that’s what our “clean energy” future will look like.

    Meg from Massachusetts

  • Steve

    Hi Tom -

    I’m wondering how a shift from dependence on foreign oil to electric automobiles is going to affect this goal? Is the US projected to have a significant increase in electricity demand from electric cars by the time these goals are to be met? Or are all fossil fuels included in the energy balance?

    Thanks!

  • John B

    Perhaps we should set up a different goal that would ensure we stop procrastinating. Instead of 85% over 35 years, we should set a goal of 2-5% increase a year.

  • TomK

    “So, do scientists deep down think it’s pretty much hopeless to avoid a climate disaster? And if so, is there no research or creative ideas in areas other than conservation and alternative energy?”

    I do think we’re screwed. The USA is incapable of long-range planning because we have to do what the corporations want, and that is short term profits. And I agree that, even if we did act responsibly, developing nations would continue to pump out CO2.

    Basically, as typical addicts, we won’t change until something really horrible happens. Unfortunately, with climate, the damage will then be irreversible. Major warming may already be fixed in place.

    If we can’t stop the CO2, maybe some crazy strategy is necessary. The ones I’ve heard, like increasing the sulfuric acid in the atmosphere to block sunlight, sound like “unintended consequences” disasters waiting to happen.

  • Worried for the country(MA)

    Meg from MA,

    Last nights Nova (which highlighted Prof. Lewis from Caltech) also had a segment on ‘clean’ trash burning using a new high temperature process. The claim is it completely burns everything and is a clean process. The plant they filmed was in NY.

  • Gerard Kapuscik

    Energy security for our country is not only an environmentally sustainable necessity; it is an existential national security requirement, and a fundamental requirement of an economically vibrant future.

    America will simply not exist as free, just and economically vibrant country if we do not solve this existential challenge to our Republic within the next generation. This is a fundamental, self-evident, socio-economic-environmental-economic truth.

    We must be bold, focused, politically courageous, and results driven. And who is leading the way? The Department of Defense, with the political support of a handful of visionary leaders with great political courage and an unswerving commitment to a renewable energy future, chief amongst them is the distinguished Congresswoman from the 8th District of the Great State of Arizona, Gabrielle Giffords.

    The Department of Defense is the world’s largest consumer of energy, consuming 135 million barrels of fuel and 30 million megawatt-hours of electricity at a cost of over $20 billion per year. DoD’s energy consumption has serious national security, environmental and economic implications for our great country.

    Congresswoman Gifford’s’ Department of Defense Energy Security Act of 2010 (DoDESA) systemically addresses DoD energy supply and use.

    DoDESA decreases consumption by facilities and by tactical and non-tactical vehicles and increases the use of renewable electricity sources to relieve the Department’s reliance on external electrical sources.
    Additionally, DoDESA sets overarching policies to implement sustainable acquisition practices, sets new DoD Energy Performance Goals, and requires DoD to develop an Energy Performance Plan and an implementation assessment for accomplishing their goal of deriving 25% of their electricity from renewable sources by 2025.

    Presidential mention and strong political support of DoDSEA was conspicuously absent from the POTUS’ SOTU speech. For reasons which are too numerous to mention and self-evident to us all, the President would move this country further down the path of his ambitious goal of reaching 80% clean energy for this nation by 2035, if he expended a large amount of his remaining political capital in a courageous, bipartisan effort to secure passage of Congresswoman Giffords’ DoDESA NOW!

  • Gabi hiemann

    My husband comment to President Obamas challenge to reduce energy consumption and how to accomplish it:
    “Get rid of the Republicans…”

  • http://www.onpointradio.org/2011/02/clean-energy Robert in Fond du Lac

    Great show Tom.
    And some great comments here on your website.

    Whenever you hear a politician talking, ju$t follow the money trail! Their job is to get re-elected.

    We consume and waste energy in the USA for only one rea$on. It is soooooo cheap! I really didn’t hear your guest mention this, the simple law of economic$.

    In Europe, gasoline is between $7 and $8 US dollars per gallon (yes, part of that problem is that some countries see our dollar as becoming worth less.)

    Do Europeans consume less energy ?

    Prof. Lewis should be lobbying for higher oil taxes.

  • ms.chevious

    one thing that MUST be apart of this conversation, that i did not hear mentioned – is our energy inefficiency. our built environment (homes, office buildings, shopping malls) must – through better design – become more efficient in the way they consume energy. ‘green’ power is not the only answer, but it’s an integral part of the overall solution. combine ‘clean’ energy with PASSIVE heating/cooling techniques, day-lighting strategies, thermal/solar water heaters (on demand water heaters), rainwater/greywater collection and resue….etc. not to mention changing the materials we build with. all of the rigid insulation in every house/building in your city is a petroleum product – it’s toxic to make, incredible flammable, and is not biodegradable. not to mention not very efficient when compared to the R values of natural insulators. as a culture and society we have to change the way we build and live, not just the source of our energy. i’m a graduate student studying sustainable design at the #1 program in the country (UO) – i’m hoping that when my classmates and i are practicing we can help make these common-sense design changes mainstream. i would love to hear a story that addresses the whole issue of future sustainability, otherwise we are fooling ourselves to think that buying an electric car or installing a solar panel will save us from the inevitable.

  • Worried for the country(MA)

    Tom, very interesting show. I wish the Caltech professor Lewis all the best in arriving at a solution.

    I have to quibble with the WaPo reporter bemoaning that fossil fuel prices are too low. Those developing alternative energy solutions have to have the mindset that it needs to be cheaper than coal. That is the holy grail and would be widely deployed.

    There are solutions to the nuclear waste issue. We need the political will to reconstitute our nuclear program. One interesting development is the thorium molten salt reactor technology. It was developed by the US in the 60s but scrapped since it sucked for weapons grade products. Thorium is much more plentiful than Uranium. This reactor produces a smaller volume of waste and the waste longevity is much smaller than current fission plants. Also, the technology can be scaled down to small plants that can be built in a factory and shipped out on tractor trailors. These should be able to produce power more cheaply than coal. China just announced this week they are starting a fast track development program. Maybe we can buy the technology from them?

  • Annsih

    America shifting to clean energy requires government financial support and political support along with citizens reduced consumption! Also, Americans must be educated about their consumption. If everyone lived like the U.S. it would require 5 earths!!

  • Wm James

    Dear Reader,

    Rewrite of an email I have sent to many, including the President of the United States, and House Speaker, Nancy Pelosi, Gov. Jerry Brown

    Note: If you can get something for little to no cost, why would anyone hesitate? The world is full of opportunities for those willing to approach problems from a new perspective. As an example: Consider the interstate highway system of the United Sates. I once read that that interstate roads cover 1% of the land in the U.S.. It has been estimated that, the U.S. could be energy independent if it were to cover 1 % of its’ land with photovoltaic panels. You would think that someone (with authority and means ) could see that putting photovoltaic panels down the medians of U.S. interstates would produce approximately 1/3 of our energy needs. If people would just take the time to look at their surroundings they would find ready off the shelf solutions to many of our worlds problems. All that is needed is creativity, critical analysis, and the ability to not give up until a solution is found.

    1. Solar Energy Concept: To some this idea may seem morose or even silly, however I believe an engineer would appreciate its value as would anyone who had the good sense to recognize a free multi-billion dollar concept. The idea is to replace the headstones in cemeteries with solar panels that have been etched with the deceased’s information, in any participating cemetery.

    Most cemeteries are located close to population centers. This one fact alone would allow real gains in actual recoverable energy by reducing line load losses that prohibit solar energy from obtaining a foothold in communities. The panels initial cost would be offset by the savings in not having to purchase the head stone. ( A rock produces no energy! ) The family of the deceased could be rewarded with an annuity that would help recoup burial cost in part and maybe in full! The solar panels would be clean, quiet, portable and easily upgradeable. The panels could be combined with any other energy sink a particular company might choose (fuel cell, flywheel, etc.). Greater return on equity for the cemetery, less green house gases, greater energy security for America and the world, a more robust and distributed energy source, increased productivity, more jobs and reduced or eliminated cost to the bereaved. The potential gains worldwide are enormous.

    • Monjonla

      What are you going to do for power after 4:00pm.
      One storm from a solar wipe out all solar panels how long and waht price will you will be willing to pay; wait for the next shipment from China?

      • Usinghtml

        What? Are you trying to say that we need some storage mechanism or complimentary energy source for when the sun goes down? And are you saying that a storm can wipe out solar panels or that a solar flare would? And all solar panels are built in China?

        After 4pm, we could use traditional energy sources. What this means is that for 8 hours a day, we would cut our dependence on foreign oil. Or, if we ever have enough solar capability to fulfill our night time energy needs (which isn’t likely in the near future), we could find one of a multitude of researched storage ideas. Check out Nocera’s new hydrogen production catalyst as an example.

        Also, you might check out both Spain and Germany as solar panel suppliers. In fact, in previous years, Germany has done a wonderful job a producing solar panels for their domestic markets (now meeting 2% of their total energy usage and on route to 25% by 2050), despite the fact that they’re at similar relative isolation levels to Canada (another supporter of Solar).

        As to storms, are you mentioning hurricane force storms? Most of the United States does not see the same kinds of storms as Louisiana and South Eastern Texas. Otherwise, a little rain won’t hurt a giant, reinforced silicon solar cell. Other, newer cells are even more resilient, being made of a flexible material.

        Snow is a problem only if it falls heavily during night, as most solar cells aren’t much above 10% efficient and the rest of this 90% of energy is remitted as heat (which melts snow before it can build up). If we’re talking about a snow heavy area, prone to lake effect snow (not a large portion of the United States), a small heater can take care of the snow.

        Many solar panel technologies can take advantageous of cloudy days (which are still much brighter than inside a house with the shades drawn), and for those who aren’t full of doom and gloom, the sun does come out quite often.

        We’re not looking for a complete solution to the problem in the next 48 hours (similar to a crash diet), we’re looking for a way to change habits and invest in a future of energy independence. If the consideration were to be fully solar in the next 10 years, your fears would be valid.

        Walk before you run.

  • Worried for the country(MA)

    Wm James,
    How much would it cost to cover 1% of the US?
    I know we’ve been printing a lot of money lately but that is a bit much.

    Current installed costs of Solar PV ranges from $5.00-$7.50/watt. To be competitive, prices need to be about $1.00/watt installed.

  • Ken Hammer

    We don’t have the political will to accomplish the President’s target for 2035. Our politicians have racked up $14 trillion in debt pandering to the public and creating the image that government was the answer to each individuals desires.

    Until they put governing before pandering for votes, we will be unable, economically, to pursue the investments described in the show and in comments.

    Congress could change my mind if it put as a first target a 20% reduction in national energy use per person in 5 years. How about a 50% reduction in the 6th year income tax rate for every taxpayer able to show achievement of that target? Pay for performance; stop selling dreams as solutions.

  • Karen

    Perhaps if the country tackled the energy problem they we tackled the Nazi’s, we’d put everybody back to work, and lead the world in green energy and economic power. We have an opportunity to grab, its now or never.

    • Captric

      The way we tackled the Nazis??? Why the “war” anology and do you know how LITTLE this country contributed to “tackling” the Nazis compared to almost EVERY country in Europe and Russia? There are no easy answers to complex problems especially when they involve science and technology. People who USE technology take it for granted, I doubt that ine in 10,000 of your friends or aquantences can describe more than one or two steps in the process of energy conversion. The REAL problem is overexpectation of spoiled Americans who falsley believe that all we need is willpower, or prayer, or the power of positive thinking and all of our needs will be met.

  • Wm James

    Reply to Worried for the country(MA),

    We found money to build the interstate system. It is still growing. We found 2 trillion dollars to fight two wars to help people who want to kill us. We have given trillions of dollars to foreign oil interest, robbing us of equity, jobs, and happiness. What say ye?

  • Worried for the country (MA)

    Wm James,
    Money poorly spent in the past does not justify bad future spending.

    Solar is just not cost effective today. Hopefully it will one day with new technical breakthroughs. There are certainly many people working on it.

    There is very little relationship between solar deployment and dependence on foreign oil. Putting a solar panel on grandma’s headstone won’t move my car one inch.

    We can agree dependence on foreign oil is a big threat to our well being. We spent over $700B in 2008 importing oil. We are on that same trajectory in 2011.
    The best short term answer is to promote compressed natural gas vehicles. We have plenty of domestic supply. The engines in cars to today will run on either CNG or gasoline. They are being sold in other countries now. You have two tanks and just press a switch to change the source of fuel. The best idea I’ve heard is for the post office to convert its fleet to CNG. This would save money (since CNG is cheaper today than gasoline) and jump start the CNG fueling infrastructure. The market for bi-fuel cars would follow. It seem like a no brainer. Just announcing this policy would probably lower the price of oil instantly.

  • Dustin (Boston, MA)

    Hello, This episode has not found its way to the podcast yet. Is that a glitch? I’d really like to get my hands on the mp3 of this show. Thanks!

  • Scott B, Jamestown NY

    I have a way to get an honest 20% – 30% increase in MPG in ANY internal combustion engine and when I try to find financing I get looked at like a loon from people that think they know everything there is to know about engines; and to get a loan first I have to prove that I don’t need one, as if I would be there hat in hand if I had $50K laying around the house.

    • Wm. James from Missouri

      I can relate! Inventors may have to wait until people come to their senses. Try looking on line using the search word “angel capital”, maybe you will get lucky. You might have better luck overseas. Can you use your invention on a small motor, bicycle, lawnmower, model airplane, etc.?

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  • ebrunar

    “You can’t go to market if you have 100s of different marketplaces…”

    If you are a household with generation on your roof or land in Germany, then all you need is to sell to one marketplace, the local power network, at prices determined by multi-year agreements.

    Production scales are changing. “Going to market” means something else for a household investing in existing generation technology than for a green-tech company looking for significant R&D funding.

  • Monjonla

    The process described as the majic bullet of storing the suns energy in a high density fluid to burn at at a later date is called algae; which the private sector has patents and is 3-5 years away from commercial use.

    Mr Lewis forgets the sun light availibity issue the solar panel issues earlier in his interview.

    Burning Hydrogen gas; liquid methanol and gasoline fro energy has been around for years.

  • Pingback: links for 2011-05-26 « Lasting Impression

  • Wm. James from Missouri

    Second Post, for your FYI. Note: It pays to check back on old shows and post !

    Flexible solar sheet captures up to 95% of light energy
    May 17, 2011 by Editor
    Using a thin flexible sheet of tiny antennas called nantennas, Patrick Pinhero, an associate professor in the Missouri University Chemical Engineering Department, has been able to achieve solar energy conversion rates of 90–95%, in contrast to traditional photovoltaic (PV) solar panels, which are only 20% efficient.PV panels only utilize a small portion of the electromagnetic spectrum. Dr. Pinhero’s nantennas capture energy from both the nearmid-infrared and optical regions of the solar electromagnetic (sunlight) spectrum.Because the nantenna material is flexible, Dr. Pinhero sees it being used in ways that traditional PV cells are not, such as being built into roof shingles or custom-designed for power vehicles.Once the funding is secure, Pinhero envisions several commercial product spin-offs, including improved contraband-identifying products for airports and the military, optical computing, and infrared line-of-sight telecommunication

    • Wm. James from Missouri

      Game changer ?

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