The Bottomless Well: The Twilight of Fuel, the Virtue of Waste, and Why We Will Never Run Out of Energy by Peter Huber & Mark Miles
This took a LONG time for me to read! It was interesting but I *did* have to gird myself to read it each time I picked it up. It makes a realistic argument concerning the practicality of switching to alternate energy sources in the short term. Also explored at length is the fact that energy consumption has historically always increased in spite of (or to a large extent as a result of) advances in efficiency. For instance, the LED dramatically reduces the energy requirements for lighting, but there are myriad other novel and hitherto impractical uses that the LEDs also make possible that will result in overall more energy consumption than was the case with earlier lighting sources.
There are some great explanations involving higher orders of energy (and thought) being created and required as technology moves forward and that the 2nd law of thermodynamics will be satisfied no mater how fancifully you couch your arguments to the contrary.
Also highlighted is the fact that we’ve had “experts” since the beginning of the age of coal and oil use who have been predicting the end of those reserves in short order. While these resources are necessarily finite, we get better and better at extracting them – something current “experts” never really seem to be able to foresee. We extract oil now from miles under the ocean floor for similar or less cost than they used to perform such extraction from 60 foot wells in the 1800s. This, plus creative future exploitation of currently unusable resource (think athabasca oil sands) gives us a lot of time to transition to other, higher order energy sources. Maybe solar, maybe wind, maybe fusion?
It seems that, no matter what the subject, there are always those who cannot accept the brilliance that is the essence of the human spirit. If there is a problem to solve, we do find a way to figure it out.
The book ends, surprisingly to me, with an interesting hypothesis concerning the origin of life and how the day-night thermal cycle is all that is really required to drive the biochemical engine that could have resulted in life and then draws an interesting parallel from this with the beginning of the book of Genesis.
A good read and reassuring for those optimistic in the future of mankind.
Posted under Books
This post was written by Marc
on October 17, 2006 at 11:19 pm