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The Forum > Article Comments > Dean Swift's foresight: energy in the 21st century > Comments

Dean Swift's foresight: energy in the 21st century : Comments

By William York, published 21/3/2017

'The only inconvenience is, that none of these projects are yet brought to perfection...'

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The much quoted excerpt from Gullivers Travels is " He has been eight years upon a project for extracting sunbeams out of cucumbers, which were to be put in phials hermetically sealed, and let out to warm the air in raw inclement summers." This seems to anticipate batteries charged by solar panels. Whether this prescient or not is akin to asking whether Leonardo da Vinci's heavy wooden contraption was the early invention of the helicopter.

Both cucumbers and batteries may fail if the EROEI Cliff theory is correct. We got to where we are today using very high yielding energy sources such as coal, gas, oil, nuclear and hydro. Intermittent power sources coupled with energy storage that may need replacing every few years have a much lower energy multiplier or Energy Returned on Energy Invested. For 1930s oil that figure could be 100 for 21st century solar and batteries about 1.5 according to Weissbach et al. Some say civilisation will collapse if the average falls below 8. Swift may have nailed it though in a cryptic form.
Posted by Taswegian, Tuesday, 21 March 2017 9:16:52 AM
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This treatise, seems to pillory nuclear energy, unexamined? For any discussion on future energy needs that doesn't include nuclear, is a fool's errand?

That economy that is first to embrace nuclear energy as thorium based energy arguably the only base-load power, will be the strongest energy reliant economy in the world!

And given tha is so, we ought to invest in as our old coal fired power stations reach the end of their planned 50 year service life over this decade?

So what else beckons as doable and affordable? Solar thermal? Well yes, always providing we use thorium lithium molten salt in the heat transfer tower! To ensure the stored retained heat is sufficient to carry steam production during overcast days and when peak demand demands it!

Fluoride thorium lithium salt, is essentially nuclear fuel, but in this case excited by concentrated sunlight rather than neutron shedding, via a controlled nuclear reaction!

Strange that we can accept the molten salt thorium and the heat inherent in molten salt, in the central tower of a large scale solar thermal projects!

But not when we apply the self same logic to vastly cheaper, walk away safe, independent of wind, sunlight or tides and able to be deployed virtually anywhere at will, molten salt thorium nuclear reactors.

Thorium promises almost everything fusion promised but never delivered! And perhaps may never deliver?

Because it essentially is a fusion bomb contained in a bottle, with the heat of a small sun?

To date fusion has only been able to last just milliseconds? And is so fraught with ultra expensive technical difficulties! The entire world need to underwrite it!

No such technical difficulties or expense attaches to molten salt thorium, which if used at chernobyl or fukushima, would have seen them still percolating away proving the world's cleanest, safest and cheapest power! And if EROEI ever gets a look in? We just won't be able to reject clean, safe, cheap thorium based energy!
Alan B.
Posted by Alan B., Tuesday, 21 March 2017 1:37:24 PM
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In Swift's Enquiry into the Behaviour of the Queen's Last Ministry (c. 1715-17, he observed:

"The art of government...requires no more, in reality,than diligence, honesty, and a moderate share of plain natural sense."

If our political class had more of these qualities, perhaps we would have a sane energy policy and less national debt.

Diligence in subjecting the Canberra Carbon Cargo Cult Con to greater scrutiny; honesty in communicating the findings to the nation without fear or favour; and the natural sense to abandon the current RE mess.
Posted by Alice Thermopolis, Tuesday, 21 March 2017 4:44:16 PM
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Alan B.:"Thorium promises almost everything fusion promised but never delivered! And perhaps may never deliver? ...

To date fusion has only been able to last just milliseconds?"

Battery banks appear to be not much better, viz. if I recall correctly, it has been estimated that if SA has a state-wide black out on a Saturday afternoon, a standby 100MW battery bank would be able to provide equivalent power for only 3.6 minutes.
Posted by Raycom, Tuesday, 21 March 2017 4:55:30 PM
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EROI, is not germane to this discussion!

Just the power of large fossil fuel companies and that of powerful metal working/coal mining unions?

And the best possible reason for some minor parties to jump ship and come out with a much more pragmatic energy policy!

People get it, even if self serving or held hostage, major political parties don't?

One would be forgiven for believing carbon free power was central to the green energy platform.

And molten salt and thorium, perfectly acceptable in solar thermal base load? Just not in clean safe cheap walk away safe thorium based nuclear reactors!

Why some even unable to distinguish between killer gamma radiation and life saving alpha radiation!? Or that thorium is fertile not fissile!

The problem? Just too cheap and likely to reactivate our energy dependant manufacture! Put wind/solar voltaic farms out of business?

A friend is lying in hospital with very late stage terminal brain cancer, kept alive by a wife who breathes around the clock for (bags) him!

Even at this late stage could be hurled headlong into dramatic remission by a miracle isotope, with a half life of just 66 hours, only available from nuclear medicine!

A fisherman and an extended filipino family's only breadwinner! Whose prospects will go down the tube with him! But that's OK, doesn't have even so much as a distant cousin with a caring heart and influential friends!

So he'll die! As will countless others, deprived by the iron will of recalcitrant pretenders? And all while postulating, pontificating politicians the world over thunder over the merits of coal/pumped hydro against wind turbines and solar voltaic; measured against (hospitality industry) penalty rates!

And that's what transpires when you meekly surrender your manufacturing base/roll over and beg for a tummy rub!

Given to a generic man they know nothing else much more pragmatic, cleaner, cheaper and safer will be tried? In the knowledge, it will be a stable door and a bolting (energy) horse that can't be put back!

And with it goes the bulk of their electoral donations? GIVE ME STRENGTH!
Alan B.
Posted by Alan B., Tuesday, 21 March 2017 5:43:53 PM
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Yes Raycom, whereas a 300 Mw thorium reactor could have picked up the load and for hours, regardless of whether the wind blew or the sun shone.

It seems odd that one would build an on again off again base load power plant just to back up intermittent alternative and vastly more expensive energy!

And the national grid has proven an ultra expensive disaster, pushed energy prices as much as three times higher than they could still be if we alone owned and operated all energy generation inclusive of repatriated profits, forgone taxes etc!

Simply put, a good businessman knows when to cut his losses and just get out!

The dying, as we watch, S.A economy, does not exist to serve the needs of alternative energy investors! And just needs to salvage what remains of an economy/manufacturing base, while it still can/has one!

The world's cheapest cleanest safest power coupled to locally invented single step electric arc furnace steel smelting has the potential to allow us to make the world's cheapest steel right here! Ditto aluminum manufacture/space age desal!

And together, foundational to a host of other manufactured, import replacing/export products!

All that's missing is the political will, plus rapid rail and very fast nuclear powered ferries that would allow us to compete with the industrial giants to our north, for very substantial market share!

After all what we are capable of making here compares with the best of the best!

Rolling over and begging for a tummy rub from green activists has only exacerbated our growing economic problems, which just need the light of unfettered pragmatism shone on them; and pragmatic decision makers, able to buck the control freak, tail wagging the dog activists, with their anti industrial, anti development agenda?
Alan B.
Posted by Alan B., Tuesday, 21 March 2017 6:23:41 PM
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*...We have not yet got to the State of Balnibarbi but Dean Swift has told us what to expect...*

Oh, I think some of the lesser underlings are living the nightmare.
The dogs breakfast in real estate speculation has begun in the Snowy Mountains.
Workers in, locals out! Affording a house in which to live is becoming increasingly impossible to find in Australia generally, discounting out the luxury of actually turning on a switch with power attached.

The more I see of Turnbull, the more detestable he becomes. God save us from these idiots!
Posted by diver dan, Wednesday, 22 March 2017 5:25:40 AM
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