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:
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.)