I’ve been meaning to write an article outlining a vision of a sustainable energy future, where biomass is converted into fuel and electricity through pyrolysis and the waste product, carbon is used as a fertilizer a-la terra preta to produce more biomass. The good news is I don’t have to. The Engineer Poet did, and it’s just part of a much broader vision you’ll find here. He also goes into a great discussion of transportation technologies and efficiency which would never have made it into the article I’d write. I like it when other people crunch numbers, so I don’t have to.
Give yourself a half hour to read the whole article. It’s worth it.
( Terra Preta: I got a comment from Erich J Knight on terra preta here that went into a lot of depth, but I deleted it by mistake. Forturnately, he says pretty much the same thing in his blog. I first heard about terra preta from Ron Larson, chair of the American Solar Energy Society, who is very active in the local (Denver) renewable energy scene. If you haven’t heard about terra preta, and are concerned about globabl warming or soil fertility without fertilizers from fossil fuels, it’s worth looking into.)
Aside on why I don’t usually crunch my own numbers:
I’m a recovering mathematician. When I left the world of math for the real(er) world of the stock market, I found that all my data contained so many uncertainties feeding into my calculations that I couldn’t really calculate anything… all I had was educated guesses. When your data is a bunch of ball park estimates, there’s no point in crunching numbers when you can just eyeball a ball park estimate for your result. I’ve come to feel (especially when analyzing stocks) that too much precision can lead to overconfidence… it’s better to use estimates that you know are estimates.
“It is better to be approximately right than precisely wrong.” – Warren Buffett
“Economists like to use a decimal point in their forcasts to prove they have a sense of humor.” (old joke)
But enough of that… Engineers rightly have more confidence in their data than financial analysts and poets, so head on over to the Ergosphere and read the article I wish I had written.)