Power Surge – NOVA on the need for new sources of energy.

I’ve got NOVA set to record on my DVR which means I often don’t get around to watching an episode until well after it has aired. Last night I got around to watching the Power Surge episode that talks about the race to develop large-scale alternative energy sources. Virgin airline’s Sir Richard Branson is figured prominently and presented as a man with a moral dilemma. Turns out he’s an environmentalist which has got to be stressful when you’re also the founder of a major airline that contributes so much carbon to the air.

The question that’s asked throughout the show is “Can technology save us from the looming environmental disaster?” Not surprisingly, most of the participants believe it can. The show takes a look at a number of technologies and, unlike other such shows, doesn’t make the argument that any single one of them is going to save us. Instead it’s going to take a wide range of technologies — wind, solar, bio, nuclear, etc. — to solve the problem. One of the other points the show makes is that if the U.S. wants to be a leader in the alternative energy field, a field expected to be quite profitable in the coming years, we’d better hurry the fuck up and get serious about it. China, of all places, already has several very wealthy alternative energy entrepreneurs and is positioning itself to be a world leader in alternative energy technologies.

Here’s a preview from the episode:

Watch the full episode. See more NOVA.

Fortunately for those of us who like NOVA and forget to watch it and who don’t have a DVR, PBS makes the episodes available to view online for free. I highly recommend you go watch the whole thing as it’s very interesting and informative. It’s especially eye opening when it looks back to how the U.S. was once very keen on alternative energies during the Oil Crisis of the 1970’s when President Carter was in the White House. He had some solar panels installed on the White House roof which are referenced again at the end of the show in a very ironic way. It’s worth watching the whole thing just to learn the fate of those most famous of solar panels. (Hint: They’re not on the White House roof anymore.)

3 thoughts on “Power Surge – NOVA on the need for new sources of energy.

  1. The question that’s asked throughout the show is “Can technology save us from the looming environmental disaster?”

    It seems to me that Martin Luther King, Jr. answered this question back in 1966:

    There is no human circumstance more tragic than the persisting existence of a harmful condition for which a remedy is readily available. Family planning, to relate population to world resources, is possible, practical and necessary. Unlike plagues of the dark ages or contemporary diseases we do not yet understand, the modern plague of overpopulation is soluble by means we have discovered and with resources we possess.

    The main hurdle seems to be that politicians and economists cling to the belief that growth is a requirement for a “healthy” economy. However, if we haven’t already reached the point of diminishing benefits with the growth issue, I don’t think that any rational being can doubt the need to stabilize or even decrease human population size eventually.

  2. I dont believe we are going to find a miracle, sorry just my opinion again, but it is because of the following:

    I live in North Dakota, over past 5 years maybe a 1000 large scale wind turbines have been put up. Its windy here, need a 20+MPH wind before its considered breezy. On a day with wind, almost everyday, the turbins are spinning, everytime I drive past one of the local wind farms (100turbins) BUT…..more then 10% of them are down. In the last 3 months, 2 turbins have been damaged beyond repair, or lost their blades. Million dollar repair jobs….each. Nuclear power has been around for 50 years, I thought that this was going to save us. What did the tsunami say about that.

    We havent evolved past fire, been trying for 50 years.

    On May 1, the people Williston,ND, and large portion of NW ND&NE Montana (5or6 biggest town in ND), came in from the outdoors wearing Tshirts, it just starte raining. 2AM big snow storm took out all 5 major power feeds miles of snapped telephone lines (not just downed lines) Power was out for 2 days, natural gas was purposly shut off after 1 day (fires), some people still had none electric fireplaces. City ran out of water (water could not be treated, or pumped to towers) Cash registers dont work, no groceries, gas pumps dont work, couldnt even drive 75 miles to nearest place with power. No TV, no one news anything, cops didnt know when power was coming on, because storm was stopping electric companies from finding out what the problems actually were. People stated breaking into stores.

    This was just 2 days, point is how many americans would be willing to make any kind of sacrafice to conserve enpough energy to make a real difference?

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