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Nothing on Earth Can Save Us

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June 4th, 2010 may someday be remembered as being the day that the future changed. On this date, the privately built and financed Falcon-9 rocket was launched from Cape Canaveral. Why is event of such great significance?

To understand this we first need to consider where we--human civilization--are at as of mid-2010. Our global political economy is based upon hydrocarbon energy: coal, natural gas, and most especially, oil. Yet oil planetary production has likely peaked. Oil discoveries peaked in the mid-1960's, and discoveries of new oil have declined precipitously since then. Despite use of more sophisticated technology, future production must decline. Current production has been flat for six years now:

There are only a handful of coal exporting countries--principally the U.S., Australia and Russia. The quality of coal being mined now is decreasing. High grade, high energy content anthracite coal seams are being replaced by lower-quality, lower energy and more polluting, bituminous and sub-bituminous coals as anthracite deposits are exhausted. As a consequence of this the net energy produced by coal mining per year may already have peaked. Each succeeding year, less and less net energy will be gained from these inferior, energy-deficient coals, even though the total tons of mined coal will rise for several decades to come.

Natural gas is difficult to transport, creating mostly regional, pipeline based markets. For North America, maintaining current supplies requires use of resource-intensive (particularly water) and environmentally-damaging technologies, principally hydraulic fracturing, or "fraking" as it is commonly referred to. And supplies of this resource will inevitably begin to decline too.

The bottom line is simple: Future growth of the global economy, including maintaining the rapid development of China and India, cannot be sustained. Consequences of hydrocarbon use, principally rapid climate changes as heat builds up in the atmosphere and the oceans, will knock the Earth's climate out of energy balance.

Agriculture is a bet that we understand long-term weather well enough to reliably grow crops. This assumption is violated as the planet slips out of energy balance. Further, each calorie of food grown using "modern" agriculture requires input of about 10 calories of, ever scarcer, ever more expensive, hydrocarbon energy.

Worse yet, the entire global economy consists of debt-based money. Such money only has "value" if future economic growth can be reasonably anticipated to pay it back. Without this assumption the world economy must collapse.

Nothing on Earth, not nuclear, not solar, or wind, or tidal energy can fill the looming energy deficit. We appear to be doomed to civilizational collapse given that nothing on Earth can save us at this late hour.

Nothing on Earth"

That's where the space launch of the Falcon-9 rocket comes in. It was developed using private financing by a startup company, completely unaffiliated with the existing big aerospace sector. Elon Musk, co-founder of Pay Pal, sold his share of that internet company in order to self-finance the start-up of Space Exploration Technologies Corporation, or "SpaceX" as it is generally called, with $100 million of his own money back in 2002.[i] Musk's vision was to reduce the cost of access to space by a factor of 10 while simultaneously increasing safety and reliability by a factor of 10. All indications are that he is succeeding brilliantly.

SpaceX's smaller cargo rocket, the Falcon-1, was successfully test launched into orbit on July 14th, 2009. Now SpaceX has a $1.6 billion contract from NASA to resupply the International Space Station beginning next year, following the retirement of the space shuttles. This resupply will be accomplished by means of the Dragon reusable spacecraft. This was launched as a prototype, atop the Falcon-9 rocket on June 4th, 2010. The Dragon payload capsule can also be configured to carry a crew of up to 7 astronauts to and from the International Space Station. It is anticipated that the Obama Administration will award SpaceX with a contract to transport US astronauts to and from the Space Station beginning in about 2012/2013.

How does this relate to our looming earthbound catastrophe? Consider that solar and wind energy is diffuse and also intermittent. Additionally, there is no effective way to store large amounts of energy indefinitely until it is needed. Batteries are inefficient and energy and resource intensive to fabricate anyway; pumping water uphill to be used to turn generators loses much of the original energy, etc. Finally, there is no existing way to move electricity around the world. There are only regional grids.

Back in the 1980's a study conducted by the US Department of Energy (DOE) found that power could be easily beamed, safely and efficiently from space in the form of microwaves. Power sent from a satellite in geosynchronous orbit can be beamed as microwaves to Earth with about 85% efficiency.[ii] What the study envisioned was actually collecting the power in space and sending it to a receiving station on the ground. This is pretty complex--although a California company founded in 2001, Solaren Corporation[iii], has signed a contract with California utility PG&E to do just that starting in 2016.[iv]

However, a simpler task would be to deploy a series of microwave reflectors to encircle the Earth in geosynchronous orbits. A single reflector could be deployed from a single Falcon-9 heavy lift rocket, which is able to hoist about 43,000 pounds of anything into that orbit. The reflector would be gossamer thin and would fold out from the payload shroud. Because it only needs to be reflective to microwaves--wire mesh basically--it could be invisible to the human eye by the way. Station keeping could be maintained essentially forever using an ion technology; such engines have already been developed and deployed for commercial satellite station keeping.[v] Even more efficient ion engines will soon be attached to the Space Station to maintain its altitude against orbital decay.[vi] These will then become available for space based power generation station keeping purposes. Ad Astra Rocket Company, founded in 2006 by astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz (who flew a record seven space shuttle missions), is actively developing this technology under contract from NASA.

I believe that solar, wind, tidal, hydro and geothermal energy can be captured wherever they are, fed into a local grid, and then relayed to another destination through an orbiting microwave reflector. The net efficiency of energy transmission from source to destination would be .85 (up to orbit) times .85 (down to Earth), or 72.25 percent efficiency. This wireless global power transmission grid would be accomplished without new power lines.

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http://www.MichaelPByron.com

Michael P Byron is the author of The Path Through Infinity's Rainbow: Your Guide to Personal Survival and Spiritual Transformation in a World Gone Mad. This book is a manual for taking effective action to deal with the crises of our age including (more...)
 
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Any technically oriented folks out there? For that... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010 at 12:22:39 PM
that i am not sure where to begin. maybe on earth:... by peggyn on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010 at 3:55:22 PM
I don't mean to sound contentious, but do you unde... by Jeff Poster on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010 at 8:00:34 PM
As you say: "those who say it cannot be done shoul... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010 at 4:05:03 PM
you seem to have missed the point. the us govt is ... by peggyn on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010 at 5:47:33 PM
The point is that government has nothing to do wit... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010 at 5:54:38 PM
"I believe that solar, wind, tidal, hydro and geot... by GLloyd Rowsey on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010 at 5:51:22 PM
No. You put several large wire mesh microwave refl... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010 at 6:02:10 PM
Dr. Byron,There are several issues that this idea ... by Paul from Potomac on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010 at 6:02:39 PM
There is a reason that I began by discussing the J... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010 at 6:39:42 PM
Paul- I'm unfamiliar with the idea of ammonia as f... by Josh Mitteldorf on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 7:43:34 AM
Ammonia burns in a well-tuned combustor to nitroge... by Paul from Potomac on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 8:53:03 AM
$40,00/kilogram for geo orbit placement? Well, if ... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Friday, Jun 11, 2010 at 12:11:43 AM
Dr. Byron,I apologize for not being clearer in my ... by Paul from Potomac on Friday, Jun 11, 2010 at 8:19:37 AM
Paul,Thanks for your thoughtful reply. However, th... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Friday, Jun 11, 2010 at 10:09:08 AM
The father of the modern ion rocket engine, Bruce ... by Paul from Potomac on Friday, Jun 11, 2010 at 10:57:41 AM
Former astronaut Franklin Chang Diaz' Ad Astra Roc... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Friday, Jun 11, 2010 at 11:36:01 AM
I note that in 2003 the ESA's Artemis satelite rea... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Friday, Jun 11, 2010 at 12:10:21 PM
These references are magazine and press clips, and... by Paul from Potomac on Friday, Jun 11, 2010 at 12:41:48 PM
Paul,There are numerous papers on the topic beginn... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Friday, Jun 11, 2010 at 1:54:19 PM
Artemis suffered a failure of its launch vehicle (... by Paul from Potomac on Friday, Jun 11, 2010 at 4:45:10 PM
Chemical propulsion was indeed used. You are corec... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Friday, Jun 11, 2010 at 6:01:43 PM
You wrote: "The life expectancy for equipment in s... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Friday, Jun 11, 2010 at 10:29:39 PM
And I would add, does not this scheme put us at th... by WML on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010 at 6:35:47 PM
It would depend on who actually does this. BP or a... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010 at 6:45:05 PM
...and found them at odds with reality. While work... by Paul from Potomac on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010 at 7:16:36 PM
Who's leading this OTEC approach?... by GLloyd Rowsey on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010 at 8:44:23 PM
Mr. Rowsey,C. B. Panchal of Argonne National Labor... by Paul from Potomac on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 7:04:07 AM
I suspect that if McDonnell Douglas had gotten the... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010 at 9:20:29 PM
Honestly, I don't understand the science here. I t... by JohnPeebles on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010 at 11:38:02 PM
John,Your comments are most appreciated.Re your me... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Wednesday, Jun 9, 2010 at 11:57:50 PM
the owner of OpEdNews and his editors go out of th... by GLloyd Rowsey on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 8:02:28 AM
I appreciate THAT comment! Hopefully, someone will... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 10:42:28 AM
I'm not technologically competent enough to make a... by Carol Cleveland on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 7:34:19 AM
If you mean "out there" in the real world, it's th... by GLloyd Rowsey on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 8:32:26 AM
Thanks for understanding one of my questions, Mr. ... by Carol Cleveland on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 9:44:01 AM
Carol,The world needs on average about the equival... by Paul from Potomac on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 8:43:33 AM
You now have one fan, which with the option I sele... by GLloyd Rowsey on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 9:16:25 AM
Paul--I was hoping you might reply to my comment, ... by Carol Cleveland on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 10:17:59 AM
You're too observant, Carol! Ancient Rome used lit... by Paul from Potomac on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 11:42:11 AM
Thanks for your informed and thoughtful reply, Pau... by Carol Cleveland on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 1:14:05 PM
Carol,I read Vonnegut long before he became popula... by Paul from Potomac on Friday, Jun 11, 2010 at 12:35:21 PM
I think we cannot move from corporation-rule to no... by GLloyd Rowsey on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 2:38:40 PM
The "satelites" are just mirrors for relecting mic... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 10:47:37 AM
...a drastic reduction of world's population to so... by aberamsay on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 11:40:41 AM
Granted, human beings don't like change. They pref... by Ruth on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 9:49:09 PM
I'm with you Ruth. I believe that what is most imp... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Thursday, Jun 10, 2010 at 10:08:24 PM
We should indeed take action in all the ways open ... by Ruth on Saturday, Jun 12, 2010 at 1:20:36 PM
I agree completely with you Ruth. Thanks for posti... by Dr. Michael P Byron on Saturday, Jun 12, 2010 at 2:52:40 PM
On May 9, 2001 over twenty military, government an... by Bill Cain on Friday, Jun 11, 2010 at 4:38:36 PM
repliedvery briefly. He wrote:"In brief; the reser... by GLloyd Rowsey on Friday, Jun 11, 2010 at 5:57:17 PM
Khazakstan, trillions of barrels, not yet online, ... by Thomas Turk on Saturday, Jun 12, 2010 at 8:35:18 PM
more please? links?i will check out bearden, newma... by peggyn on Saturday, Jun 12, 2010 at 9:32:36 PM
Start here: http://www.theorionproject.org... by Bill Cain on Monday, Jun 14, 2010 at 9:58:08 PM