Vision of a sustainable energy future

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.

 Two quotes:

“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.)


  1. stonehead said

    This is great! I wrote about something similar to this based on what I do on my croft in Scotland and asked if it would be possible to do tie various renewable fuel technologies in to one system.

    A few people emailed me raising doubts about it.

    Then I found I’d had a couple of click-throughs from the WordPress biofuels tag, visited that, and found your post Vision of a Sustainable Future was the featured blog.

    So I came here, read your post, followed the link to the Engineer Poet’s story and found all the numbers that backed up what I’d begun to think was a half-baked, Head Robinson idea.

    It’s things like this that make me a huge fan of the blogosphere!

    Thanks again for a very useful post and the link to the Engineer Poet.

  2. tomkonrad said

    I’m glad you’re spreading the word. He put a lot of work into it and it deserves to be read.

  3. Erich J. Knight said

    Here is Ron’s Solar Today Article:

    Also posted some new stuff on my blog


  4. Erich J. Knight said

    RE: Nature Article — the link given on the previous page,will not allow access without being a subscriber to Nature.

    I posted it Before Nature started requiring a subscribing membership, here is a link to the original pdf version. The pdf version is still accessible without a membership.

    Click to access 442624a.pdf

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