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Wait or Watt?

Posted on: 4th November 2010

Would the 1.6 billion people in the world without electricity prefer to see some more technological research on energy or would they prefer to acquire a working machine providing real electricity to their homes and villages?

I am at times surprised by the large funds available in the US and EU to pursue research into technologies that are either not necessary to society or will be obsolete by the time they reach (if ever) commercialisation.  I am not referring here to military (sorry defence) funding. Cryogenic electric machines (i.e. electric generators and motors which give highly efficient work at -150C) spring to mind. With several electric machine typologies already over 90% efficient at ambient temperature, how can designing a machine that keeps itself at very low temperatures to squeeze a few more efficiency points be worth expending valuable funds. How much of the gained efficiency will be re-lost to provide the sub-zero temperatures. What will be the cost of manufacturing and servicing such a machine. Yet these projects receive millions. Bio-fuels (with the honourable exception of bio-gas) represent the widest technological “cul de sac” boulevard known. Why pursue “cellulosic ethanol” when ethanol is a flawed bio-fuel, presently doing more environmental damage than environmental good.  Why pursue cellulosic ethanol when a better, more adaptable, more powerful bio-fuel known as butanol (butyl-alcohol) is already viable and can already employ the so called “cellulosic materials” as for the record, can bio-gas. But, further millions are given to various institutions to encourage the misguided pursuit of cellulosic ethanol. Can this be because agricultural and industrial groups benefit from the system as it exists? Why study the genetic modification of so called “super bugs” to make our future fuels when we will be using electricity to power our transport system and these bugs are today outperformed by natural  bacteria doing what comes naturally? Furthermore, there is ample evidence that genetically modifying an organism triggers unpredictable results. Who are the cheerleaders for deployment of genetically modifyied organisms? Why, the patent owners of GMO’s, silly me!

Enough research, it’s time to get on with it!  Our point is simple – we can commercialise and employ today, at competitive costs, the technologies and processes to energise all of the Earth’s people, improve quality of life everywhere. Several viable electricity generating and using technologies have been developed by intrepid inventors and developers, often poorly funded. These technologies can “hit the ground running”.  Neither the World or its 1.6 billion occupants without energy can afford to wait any longer for delivered wattage. The “Fully Loaded” costs of energising the Under Developed World is €2,000 or so per person which compares favourably with US and EU electricity delivery costs.  Research should be used in its supportive role; not a raison d’être in itself.  If adequately funded and supported, within 12 months, eco-villages can be springing up like mushrooms throughout the dark and energy-less World. Or, perhaps that is not what is wanted by the Developed World? What will happen to the super states of the USA and EU if Africa, India, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Chile, Peru and rural China make their own technological long marches into empowerment?

One Response to Wait or Watt?

  1. Hi Mahon,

    this is a interesting point. We have discussed something similar in our blog concentrated on electric cars and green technology , and I can only agree with your thesis.

    Since you where asking why, let me give you my thoughts on this.

    1) Lobby is killing the EU. It’s wether rational nor functional.
    2) Never the less, research should go in many directions at the same time. The problem is not this. The problem is taking many alternatives into products. Research is one thing, but making products out of it is a different one. Here we should focus on the most functional and promising techs.

    thank you!
    olmo

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