Last week I wrote about nuclear fusion, the elusive and extremely difficult-to-harness energy source with the potential to solve the entire world’s problem of energy shortage. Fusion has the potential to generate vast amounts of energy, so why should we continue developing other, less efficient forms of energy? Developing fusion energy, even if it does take 20 years to develop, will mean all this money spent nowadays on things like photovoltaics and wind turbines will have been a waste. This idea relates to the argument that we don’t need to worry about things like climate change and pollution, because human innovation will find a way out of future crises. Unfortunately, technology doesn’t go from prototype to massively-deployed overnight. It takes many decades for a new technology, especially one as complex as a new energy source, to become commonplace.
The development of a new technology to a point that it makes a meaningful penetration into the market takes much longer than most people think. If a prototype fusion reactor were fired up today, it would take nearly 30 years for fusion to reach a 1 percent market share. Depending on your beliefs about climate change and a coming energy crisis, can we afford to wait until 2042 to see a measly 1 percent of our energy coming from a proposed clean, efficient fusion energy source?
Or how about waiting until 2062 or later, seeing that the goal for a commercial fusion reactor is commonly pushed back by 20 years? That sure is a lot to bet on one untested and currently impossible energy source. Investing in renewable energy sources means that should all other next-generation energy sources fail, we already have a growing infrastructure of alternative-energy sources.
This means that steps need to be taken now to convert to different forms of energy. Ramping up solar, wind, geothermal, hydro, biomass, and other forms of renewable energy need to occur in order to reduce our dependence on oil. This way, should an oil shortage occur, the impact of such a shortage won’t be as severe. It may be unrealistic to expect that oil can be completely phased out in the next one or two hundred years, but reducing our dependence on it will mean less suffering and hardship if or when oil does start running out. This would of course require some planning on our part. Waiting until we hit an energy crisis or reaching the cliff of falling into devastating climate change patterns is a bad time to realize that we should have been converting to renewable energy decades ago. Think about how often you are successful after just winging it, as opposed to your success after careful planning and management. No doubt, planning and management is a better way to deal with energy consumption.
Relying on our future selves to solve our future problems sure is convenient, but some forethought and planning on our part sure would make life a lot easier for them.