Sunday, December 14, 2008

Main Street Savvy

I have a friend with main street savvy.

He thinks we are in for 5 to 7 years of treading water.

One problem is that we have automated away manufacturing jobs. Making stuff no longer requires near as many workers for a given amount of output.

This is similar to what happened to agriculture in the 20s.

At this point there is no “big new thing” to take up the slack. Biotech is not ready. Green energy in most cases is a net loss (green energy is higher cost than coal). Fusion if it was ready tomorrow would take 5 to 10 years to make an economic impact. And fusion is not ready for roll out tomorrow.

If the research goes well the Bussard Fusion Reactor (BFR) might be ready in 5 years. Projects like ITER are not only not ready (30 years more to go) but the energy is expected to cost 5X to 10X current sources.

The nice thing about the BFR project is that it can be done for about $200 million and will take 5 years. If the answer is positive energy costs will be from 1/2 to 1/10th current prices.

What needs to be done is a lot more research on a lot of things. Research is labor intensive. However, it can’t absorb a lot of labor. Say we started a 100,000 new research projects (there aren’t that many good ideas to fund) that would only absorb 500,000 people. Of that number 100,000 would have to be highly trained. We don’t have that many highly trained people not already involved in research.

We will pull out of this. It is going to take time.


James W Makepeace said...

I think not enough people beleve that Bussard fusion will deliver enough energy to be worth pursuing,but there is a growing interest in laser fusion, both "fast-ignition and now the fusion/fission hybrid recently announced at Lawrence Livermore.
Obviously we want to get away from fission as soon as we can, but there is something interesting about the hybrid laser fusion approach... it extracts the huge amount of energy not "burned" during the fission process and "burns" the fissile material to much lower volumes, thus massively reducing the storage problem for the long life waste we already have in store.
Here's a link to a film about pure fast-ignition laser fusion (the HiPER Project) and a bit about tokamak fusion too. Remember... no radioactivity, no CO2 and the fuel... from sea-water ! Very handy ! Here's the link....

M. Simon said...

not enough people beleve that Bussard fusion will deliver enough energy to be worth pursuing

That is where I come in. I'm taking great pains to get enough people to believe. Once that happens there will be an unlimited energy resource.

I had thought about harnessing the belief of devout Christians but I have found them difficult to work with.


It doesn't matter what people believe. It only has to work - which is by no means a sure thing.

In any case IEC is already used in portable neutron generators. No fundamental reason the efficiency couldn't be improved so that such a device could be used for transmutation.

Richard Sharpe said...

The problem with trying to use research to soak up the unemployed is that research can only really be done by the top 10% of the population.

Such people tend to have no problem finding jobs today.