This morning, I read this, about some research effort Google Engineers undertook, in which they found evidence that switching from Fossil Fuels to Green Energy was impractical.
Now, Google as a company has achieved a hell of a lot and they must be commended for their ingenuity and great effort.
But this time, I can’t believe how wide off the mark their techies are. There’s so much wrong with their approach, its not even funny.
For the following reasons:
- I think the premise from which the Engineers began this research was flawed. If you begin research with a goal for an overnight transformation, an attempt to change everything, everywhere immediately, of course you will run into unspeakable problems. Of course that approach will require huge amounts of resources, and you will get the runaway cycle the engineers describe. It’s obvious that there will be huge amounts of resources required to achieve that overnight switch, which in the real world is unworkable, as they have concluded….But what about a phased or gradual switch? One industry at a time:- Okay, we’ll start with public transport, in particular buses, replace the current ones in one city with electric ones. Then after buses, a years later – after we’ve studied the impact, we’ll gradually replace buses in other cities aswell, then begin to change half of our street lighting into solar-powered street lights, then, 2 years later, we’ll install some of those electric generators which operate using waste material in half the hospitals across a region, say the North West of England, hand-in hand with replacing all the roofing on all the public car-parks in the region with solar, and study the impact. In about 4 years, we’ll begin installing Geothermal harvesting systems to power the heating in our primary schools and colleges, again in specified regions, say the South East and South West of England. As that initiative is rolled out across parts of the country, we’ll increase our investment in LPG engines and technologies and give subsidies / tax breaks to motorists who switch, hand in hand with encouraging the development of wind power technologies made from recycled materials. If the Scottish environmentalists oppose increasing offshore wind farms, how about tidal energy technology? Oh, and what about a law that says that solar roads must be installed in all new residential and industrial road development sites across the South East and South West? One other thing, we’ll reduce your council tax by a third and halve your TV-licence if you commute to work by bicycle…a fact that will not only make people healthier (and save the National Health Service millions in the long run), but it will reduce congestion and lower your carbon emissions. If this kind of approach is replicated across other countries, and gradually increased in scale and scope, there will be savings achieved, and in my view it is these savings that must be compared with the equivalent spend had we remained on fossil fuels. That kind of gradual approach is precisely what is going to reduce our reliance on petroleum… NOT a theoretical overnight switch, when most building are still powered by inefficient lightbulbs…why not begin the small changes first, and measure the impacy, before you go all out? Switching from fossil fuels to eco-friendly sources must not take 20 hurried and egoistic filled years, instead it must take 40 – 100+ years of careful phased transformation, for it to be practical and truly successful. Any research on the matter must take that in consideration, if it is to be believable.
- Secondly, the Google model on the face of it appears to assume that you will be operating with currently known materials. Now, I know you probably ‘currently’ can’t get away with NOT USING copper, glass, carbon fibre or neodymium to construct your solar cells, but what about finding alternatives of these. Or of steel? In an age, where 3-D printing is opening up new possibilities, in a world of Graphene, maybe in future not only can I print my turbine blades(which will be much more efficient than current ones), but I can probably use some blades carved out of recycled wood, covered with layers of nanomaterials and that includes some Graphene composite….or some other composite materials that’s yet to be developed. Or some other material that is currently being tested, but has not yet achieved widespread use. In other words, Google engineers are assuming that cheaper or perhaps natural alternatives will, or cannot be found in the future. That’s a dangerous, if not arrogant assumption to make.
- Their approach appears to be geared towards a centralised and industrial led transformation, and that’s one of the problems. Instead of having this massive centralised approach to move everything away from petroleum, what about small individual increments, by individuals. So to give a small example, a Local council in an area, say the South East (or if in the US, a US State) can decide to grow bamboo (which has some admirable advantages) in a suitable area, and in 4- 5 years time begin to build houses with sections that make widespread use of that bamboo (treated of course) as part of the raw materials, saving them money on using conventional more expensive, but less ecofriendly materials. As the project develops they can incorporate other recycled items which are readily available, like used tyres, composite materials, etc…which although not exactly sexy, are cheaper and cleaner on the environment.
- It may be Google Engineers who have undertaken the research, but it doesn’t mean that they are always right. How many things have Google got wrong in the past? Weren’t these inventions made or led by the same engineers who are now telling us to give up on green tech? There are other tech companies out there, including Tesla, with more cred, and guess what, unlike Google, they think Clean tech is better for economic growth than fossil fuels.
- There are countries out there that are experiencing desertification, and very little appears to be done to curb the loss. Illegal logging is rife in most poor countries, and more often than not, the timber finally finds its way to western much richer countries where the likes of Google make their vast profits. Why can’t a government led movement in one of these countries begin to curb illegal logging and encourage wood recycling and reclamation of wooden products, than letting manufacturers bring in more and more timber, whose origins are extremely doubtful if not outright questionable? Google with its weight can help here, they can go as far as offer incentives to small timber companies operating in such countries where illegal logging is an issue, to encourage them to plant more trees, and forests, and as the forests mature, the owners would receive more incentives, be they financial incentives, or technology (computers, mobile phones etc) to supplement their incomes and also help them and their communities integrate easily into the global village. Further, why not encourage initiatives such as these which are designed to reverse dessertification (also see here)?
Feel free to reblog this if you have a blog. 🙂