Back to the BOTF: Energy

Back to the BOTF: Energy

Right, back on my favourite hobby horse for another ride: energy.

The BOTF looked at four energy sources: wind, water, solar…and fusion.

The last one still seems very much science fiction rather than fact. For all the successes of the JET programme, and forthcoming ITER, you still have to put in a lot more energy than you get out for fusion to occur. More energy sink than energy source then. (I also seem to remember a problem with the toroidal magnetic fields twisting and lifting tons of equipment off the ground, but I can’t find any evidence of this on the web. Any clues greatly appreciated).

It is the other three sources, and their lack of employment that vexes me.

For example, in the UK we are currently considering a massive building programme for new nuclear power stations to meet our growing energy needs as we try and ween ourselves off coal and shut down the ageing Magnox reactors. Yet we find ourselves falling out (pun intended) with Iran over its desire to build nuclear reactors because of the potential side effects that it supports the creation of nuclear weapons.

Imagine if all the money the British government had poured in to supporting a loss-making nuclear industry had instead been poured in to research into renewable energy. Today instead of negotiating a fine line with Iran over whether they really need nuclear power, and why we are allowed to have it but they aren’t, we could demonstrate that no-one needs it. If Iran really wanted nuclear weapons rather than energy, its government would have to say so explicitly.

Simplistic? Maybe, but given the amount of progress the renewable energy industry has made with just tiny levels of investment, it doesn’t seem unreasonable to expect much greater advances with significantly more investment.

Wind power particularly has made great strides. Small turbines are now available in B+Q (although not with my suggested packaging of the government grant), which brings us back to the theme of my last post: self-sufficiency. If householders all start putting up wind turbines of our own accord we will reduce our reliance on the energy companies. They might take notice and finally start to invest a bit more heavily in technologies that will reduce our reliance on oil and dirty, expensive, nuclear fission.

Then we might be on a slightly better footing when we start telling other countries that they’re not allowed nuclear power because it’s dangerous.

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This article is by Tom Cheesewright. This post forms part of the Future of Cities series. For more posts on this subject, visit the Future of Cities page.

Tom Cheesewright

Futurist speaker Tom Cheesewright is one of the UK's leading commentators on technology and tomorrow. Tom has worked with a huge range of organisations across a variety of markets, to help them to see a clear vision of tomorrow, share that vision and respond with agility. Tom draws on his experience to create original, compelling talks that are keyed to the experience of the audience but which surprise and shock with unexpected facts and examples.

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