The most powerful idea in the world

Against all odds, the first decades of industrialization actually have something useful to say about their long term impact on the World’s climate–though it isn’t what either side in the global warming debate would probably endorse. It certainly doesn’t give much comfort to anyone who thinks humanity can be persuaded to spend any more for power than it has to: America and Europe might have finally so enriched themselves that they can afford to convert to wind, water and solar power, but neither China nor India is likely to choose either over coal costing one-tenth as much. If the history of steam power teaches anything, it is that the lower cost fuel option always wins. Right now, that option is about a trillion tons of easily mined, dirty, carbon-rich coal…..any comprehensive solution is going to have to do one of two things: figure out how to return all that carbon to where it was before humans learned how to exhaust it into the atmosphere–the technical term for putting carbon back is sequestration–or come up with a non-carbon-producing energy system that costs less than coal. Both options put the highest possible premiums on invention.–William Rosen, “The Most Powerful Idea in the World”.

james-watt-steam-engine-006

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *