The book is political only after it makes its reasoned, scientific arguments. Essentially Goodstein recognizes the impending global energy crisis, makes conservative estimates of how far away this crisis will be (following the more statistically and logically sound reasoning of Hubbert and followers), and concludes that the world can't keep going like this much longer. We must find an alternative to fossil fuels. Keeping a strong grounding in fundamental physics, giving some of the relevant physical and historical context, Goodstein reviews the pros and cons of known alternatives, and finds all of them lacking.Good stuff, and Climateboy has more on the book's clarity of argument and careful use of freshman-level physics to explain things. Last July I blogged about the yearly British Petroleum report on the world's energy reserves. Our estimate of the grand total amount of fossil fuels we can possibly ever squeeze out of this planet is referred to as the ultimately recoverable reserves, or URR. After a long preamble about the error bars on the URR, the report gave us this bit non-reality based thinking:
Economists often deny the validity of the concept of ultimately recoverable reserves as they consider that the recoverability of resources depends upon changing and unpredictable economics and evolving technologies.As I said then, denying the concept doesn't make it go away. We will run out. It might be in 50 years, it might be in 100 years, it might be in 200 years, but it will be sometime in that time range. Its something we need to think about. As I blogged in August, we can't rely solely on the shell-game of hydrogen fuel-cells. They're just very nifty batteries, but the energy supplying them has to come from somewhere.
Out of Gas is a call to engineers, physical, social, and even life scientists to wake up and start to address this problem immediately. The stakes are high, and the rewards of successfully averting the coming catastrophe are even greater.This reminded me of Tom Friedman's recent appearance on the Daily Show, where he said that American society needs to inspire young people to become engineers, and that this generation's man-on-the-moon promise could be alternative energy research. I often quibble with Friedman's liberal use of metaphors, but this basic point clearly holds. What's also clear is that this administration is not going to be making the necessary clarion call anytime soon: The Department of Energy's solar energy budget for 2004 was $83,393,000, and they're actually asking for $80,333,000, 3.7% less in 2005. (See this pdf, page 5.) So it's upto us to pass information like this around, encourage young engineers, and put pressure on our politicians to start digging us out of this mess. Keep an eye on Climateboy's blog for more conjunctions between science and politics.
Spring 2006: Guest Bloggers!
Rishi | Scott | Emily
Echan | Robert | ToastyKen