Earth on Fire: The Overheating Planet

Earth on Fire: The Overheating Planet

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The reason some popular posts are tagged ‘no title’ is not because they have no title—they all do—but because the old Blogger embedded the title at the top of text, and the new software does not see that. You can see the titles in capitals at the start of each snippet. (It would be nice if Blogger introduced an upgrade program that could fix this little problem.)

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Tuesday, 20 September 2005

THE SUNLIGHT-AND-WATER ECONOMY

Silicon is the second-most plentiful element in the earth's crust (after oxygen). Hydrogen is the most plentiful element in the universe. If we went on to a war-footing globally, with the aim of putting silicon solar cells on every roof and fuel-cells into every dwelling and vehicle ASAP, we could wipe out global pollution. We are too late to end global-overheating, because we have passed the point of no-return, but at least we will no longer be contributing to it. The fuel-cells would run on the hydrogen produced by splitting water with the electricity from the solar cells. The emission from fuel-cells is water, which would then rain on the roofs, and be split again, and so on.

We must produce hydrogen by splitting water. We must not, as the Boys from the Black Stuff want, produce it by splitting hydrocarbons. If we did that, the carbon in the hydrocarbons would, in forming carbon-dioxide, take more and more oxygen from the air. If we got down from the present 21% to 17.5-18% we would all die of asphyxiation. But taking hydrogen it from water means we would have a cycle: the water is split, passed though a fuel-cell and remade, then cycles round again. No net loss of oxygen. Truly a life cycle.

If we monumentally raised production of solar cells and fuel-cells all over the world we would force the price down to the point where it would cost no more than $US5000 a house to provide it with an average of 50 square metres of solar cells (538 sq ft) and a 15kW fuel-cell. The only thing standing between us and the sunlight-and-water economy is the law of supply and demand. If we keep using that law as a catchment area, as we usually do, the prices will keep creeping down, but that will take far too long. We do not have the time. So if instead we use it as a sword, by putting in huge orders from entire countries, and sharpen it by giving silicon foundries 100%-plus tax-breaks, we will force the prices down right now. The need is global. The bottom line is the quality of life of the whole human race.