Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Heat, Part 2.

We need heat.

Heat makes us warm, produces energy and, oh by the way we make our food using energy and heat (trust me). If we can get ourselves a nice, constant, renewable, clean source of heat then the problems are all gone, and we can all just sing and dance ourselves into a stupor.

Really, if we didn't need oil... would we be in the middle east at all? Of course not. Its all sand, it's really hot, and figs are disgusting. It seems to me our quest for heat via oil has led to an awful lot of the horrors of the past, and present.  Like Iraq...

So, I left off last time with a question... what if there was a source of heat that was nearby, did not require consuming fuel, produced no waste, and would never end?

There is. Right here on earth. It's the earth.

The earth is actually quite hot. We don't think so, because we live on a very thin crust of skin that is quiet livable, but just under that crust the earth is really one big ball of hot. Every once it a while it reminds us of this by burning our faces off with a geyser or destroying the occasional Pompeii with a volcano, but most of the time we forget that this planet is smokin' hot inside.

This is not a new idea, of course. It's called geothermal energy and they've been using it in places like Iceland for a long time. Iceland, I guess, has a thinner crust. Lucky them. At least we don't have to eat Puffins.

But why are we not, like, totally focused on figuring out how to get and use geothermal heat? Dig holes down into the hot stuff, transfer the heat up to the surface, boil a liquid, and spin a turbine? No fuel, no waste, dig the hole wherever you want (maybe some places are easier, but the magma is everywhere).  We're talking steam technology, here, not magnetic bottles and cold fusion.

Okay, I don't know anything about this... but the experts can bring it on. It's farther down that you think, Scott. It's really hard to deal with those pressures, and transferring the heat is very tricky, Scott. We probably will need a whole new thermocouple technology, Scott. It'll cost way more than you think. It's really, really, really hard. You're an idiot, shut up, Scott.

I don't care. Really, I don't care. Whatever it takes to make it work, once it does we have free energy forever. Amortize any cost, any effort over "forever" and it's worth it.

Besides, do you mean to tell me that we split the atom in the 40's, flew to the friggin moon in the 60's, created plasma in the 90's, but here in the 21st century it's too hard to dig a really deep hole? I don't buy it. I think this is a failure of imagination.

Really, think about it. Let's say it takes some Manhattan-Project-Multiplied-By-The-Moon-Program type effort to do this... but once you do, the energy problem is solved. We can make all the electricity we want, forever (or as long as the Earth is hot inside, heh). Cars can run on it, trains can, we can festoon ourselves with pants made out of flat screen TV’s or whatever... and no pollution, no fighting over fuel sources. Nothing. Done.  (Okay, the earth's heat does pollute now and again, but even Al Gore can't blame humans for volcanos, and we get them anyway).

Ah, but the big bad corporations won't allow it, you say. They want to hold us by the short and curlies and make us buy their oil, rubbing their hands and cackling like Montgomery Burns, all that.

But... I thought we decided it was way hard, way expensive, to build a geothermal plant, right? Gonna take an Exxon-Mobile, or General Electric, or Mondo Corpromonstro corporation with deep, evil pockets to build it, right? Then, once they do, they are in the "sell electricity to all the suckers while paying for no fuel and no pollution" business. Who does not want to be in that business? Once you get it going, to get to own the richest corporation in the history of everything. Yeah, they'd hate that.

I understand why solar has failed.  They fear that we'll all put cheap plastic waffles on the tops of our houses, get off the grid, put them out of business and all turn into folk singers.  Fine.  I don't think we're about to build our own geothermal wells anytime soon.  The big corps get to keep control, just as they always have.

Sincerely, someone explain to me why this is not the answer, and please do so without pointing out how difficult it would be. We do difficult and expensive things all the time. I'll bet with just the cost of *one* of the countless wars we've fought and are fighting over oil, we could be lousy with GT plants. Someone tell me no, and why.

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