Figuring Out the Future

I was reading a post on the ZMan’s site about electric cars.  His thesis is that electric cars are a policy in search of a reason.  And of course, he’s correct.  Electric cars are inferior in all aspects including energy efficiency and even “carbon footprint.”  After all, the power that charges the battery is still being generated by burning fossil fuels.  And since transmitting electricity wastes between thirty and forty percent of the energy as heat then just burning gasoline in an internal combustion engine (ICE) burns much less fuel.  But what electric cars effectively do is give direct control over transportation to the government.  Now instead of allowing car companies and fuel companies to sell their products directly to consumers, the government can regulate where and how you access the energy needed to run your vehicle.  And they can even tell when you recharge your car and eventually, they’ll be able to tell you when you can’t.  It’s pretty obvious where all this is going.  The freedom we have had to be able to get up and go wherever we want whenever we want is about to go away.  The powers that be have a plan for the future and it doesn’t include that particular freedom, at least not for most of us.

But I don’t think we should assume that is the only change that is in the works.  The global warming nonsense is the justification for a whole host of changes that are coming down the pike.  As with all things bad and dysfunctional the place to look for what will be rolled out is California.  Rolling brown outs, rolling black outs, water restrictions and the scheduled elimination of the internal combustion engine is already in place there.  Probably coming down the road will be the elimination of fossil fuels for home heating, the replacement of flush toilets with chemical systems and restrictions on the use of refrigeration and air conditioning.  After that, restrictions on the kind of produce farmers are allowed to grow will be decreed based on the amount of water and fertilizer required.

All of this sounds pretty bleak.  And it is.  We have lived in a time of such prosperity and freedom that these types of restrictions sound awful.  But they are based on a logic that can be guessed at.  Up until the twentieth century Malthusianism held that eventually population growth would outstrip the food supply and a crisis would lead to a population die off.  In addition, most people believe that the supply of fossil fuels is finite and possibly near its end.  The people who run our country are unhappy with the fracking and other enhanced petroleum recovery techniques currently going on.  They would prefer that the Middle Eastern and Russian resources were utilized instead.  And now that birth control has proven capable of reducing the birth rate below replacement levels in much of the developed world, I think they’ve formulated a plan on how to reshape society.  In a nutshell they are telling our children to drop dead.  And the strange thing is a lot of them are agreeing to the idea.

I’ve mentioned a discussion I had with a co-worker a few years back where he almost bragged to me that he had decided to forego having a family to help save the planet.  As an extenuating circumstance, I will admit that based on appearance and personality, I didn’t think his decision was the only factor that might prevent him from convincing a woman to bear his children.  But the fact that he had allowed this Gaia argument to have any weight at all in his personal reproductive decision-making process was thought provoking on my part.

What all this tells me is that we are no longer convenient as herd animals for our lords and masters.  They don’t need as many of us and they don’t want to pay as much for our upkeep as they used to tolerate.  What we got used to as first-world conditions are no longer seen as acceptable.  We’re going to have to live a little lower.

Of course, the alternative that we used to expect is for engineers and scientists to discover and commercialize processes that allow for Americans to improve their lifestyle not degrade it.  Energy production and personal transportation are things that have made this country wealthy and free in ways that no other country in history ever was.  Looking for ways to fuel our cars and heat and cool our homes are not insurmountable technical problems.  There are any number of existing resources that can be adapted to the present needs and even improve on the performance and efficiency of our present arrangements.  Nuclear power, will be the engine that will make it possible to produce affordable fuel after petroleum is exhausted.  It is probable that an important part of that fuel requirement will be the use of hydrogen combustion to heat our homes.  This will require the perfection of extremely fail-safe methods of storing and burning hydrogen.  But when that is achieved, we will have a fuel that produces only water as its exhaust material.  As far as the use of hydrogen as a fuel for cars, that is a trickier problem.  It may not be feasible to make a collision between hydrogen fueled cars safe.  It may be necessary for synthetic hydrocarbons to be produced at industrial scale in order to allow our cars to be fueled safely but with enough energy the existing art in chemical engineering is well able to achieve this result.

Another problem that cheap energy will solve is the shortage of potable water.  Currently reverse osmosis has been perfected such that sea water can be converted into fresh water.  But the high-pressure pumping costs used in this process are considerable.  What is needed is the output of several very large nuclear power plants located in Southern California to produce enough water for the household requirements of California.  This would then free up the water of the Colorado River to be used by the remaining southwestern states.

But what all this requires first is for us to escape from our elite masters.  They do not add anything to the equation and the sooner we stop living according to their dictates the sooner we’ll begin making a better world.  We’re not their serfs and we don’t have to disappear just to suit their tastes.  Maybe they need to disappear.  If they’re not careful they just might.