While reducing energy demand makes sense on paper I seriously doubt it’s going to happen, if you look back through history man has simply replaced one outdated or depleted energy source with another and I can’t see the future being any different.
As oil runs out the cost will increase but the demand won’t diminish, alternative energy sources will become more viable and people, scrupulous and not so scrupulous, will rush to fill the demand and their pockets. The really clever ones will already have a toehold in the market and really clever governments will be doing everything they can to encourage them to do so.
You are of course right Grinch. But each replacement energy source has been bigger and more sapping of earth’s resources than the one before, and has been required to support a larger and larger demand. Resources are finite, unchecked demand isn’t. Illogical humanity, like any other plague or pest, won’t voluntarily decrease its demand – we will presumably eat and destroy ourselves back to a sustainable level. Logical humanity will need to intervene to ration resources compulsorily. That effectively means a global body tasked with putting in place a “fair” system of resource distribution at an individual level. You’ve read it in SciFi, our technology is reaching the point where individual actions can be closely monitored and some form of energy use rationing is, in some scenarios, inevitable imv.
Alternative energy sources may become “more viable” but unless more resources are focussed on developing and enhancing a nuclear future instead of tinkering at the edges by wasting subsidy on “heath robinson” renewables, we won’t even dent the surface of the next century’s energy demands.
Moon, I completely disagree with any notion that any part of the solution calls for a downgrade in quality of life in regards to the conveniences we've become used to circa mid 20th century onward. I think there are certainly expectations of higher efficiency, but not reductions in kind.
Now, as an engineer, I've been completely opposed to solar cells for 30 years, but not to solar power. In fact, we have enough solar power in a small patch of desert here in the US to power our entire country, if it's done properly. Solar cells are one of the least efficient methods, both in production and in deployment, because they only utilize the photons coming from the sun, and ignore the suns natural thermal radiation. Solar thermal is the way to go.
Winds challenge is a grid that's a hundred years out of date. Because of the nature of capitalism, politics, and physics, it isn't surprising at all that early stutter steps have occurred. I'd point you to Tucker and Studebaker though.
This is why the impetus is on governments and not markets to blaze these trails. Now we're looking at private sector space missions because of the early support for technological development .
Besides that, fossil fuels ARE going to run out, climate change be damned.
Being American Reb, of course you disagree with any sort of downgrading of lifestyle. Your nation is the most profligate on earth. But whether you like it or not, it’s coming,
I don’t understand your problem with PV. PV may ignore thermal radiation, but panels are becoming more efficient, and more importantly much cheaper. If you can produce electricity for next to nothing use just part of a natural resource, what does it matter if you don’t use the remainder. Would you object to a small water turbine in a large river, purely because it doesn’t use the whole river?
Anyway, how will solar thermal help? Doesn't it just produce hot water?
The grid is the main problem in the US maybe, there are many other problems with wind in smaller countries. Intermittency is certainly an issue, but in general wind is probably the best example of the world effectively wasting resources enriching a few individuals for very little gain. Certainly not enough gain to make any impact on our energy problem.
I agree about governments blazing trails – I agree about the sense of blazing trails into space. The trails they blazed in relation to renewables were however largely driven by fear and panic, and now we are paying for that mistaken trail blazing.