where the writers are
THE ENERGY MOSAIC, WHY WE DON’T NEED TO FREEZE IN THE DARK Part One
Cover of Tinker's Plague an enviromentally based SF novel

An examination of sustainable energy technologies from solar panels to methane-composting, sewage-treatment plants and the parts they can play in saving our society. 

The above is a panel discussion I’ve suggested for the Ad Astra Science Fiction Convention. The title says it all and offers hope for a bleak future. In writing Tinker’s Plague I studied many of the sustainable ways to gain useable energy. One of the conclusions I came to is that no one system is the answer. Only by diversifying the energy supply can we hope to have enough. We’ve been squandering non-renewable resources up until now, but by the very nature of a non-renewable resource that system cannot last forever. By shifting today to using renewable resources where we can, and as much as we can, we can extend the life of our non-renewable resources. Maybe the big shareholders of the oil companies won’t make as much profit for the next few years, but because we extend the life of those non-renewable resources their employees will still have jobs when it comes time to retire.

The reality is, we as a species have gouged for maximum, short-term profit with no view to the future. We’re like a kid on a survival trip who’s been given his food for the week and gobbles it down on the first day. What I’m suggesting is that we start acting like grown ups. Grown ups know there is a tomorrow and plan for it. Towards that end the following is offered. This blog segment isn’t going to go into nitty-gritty details about the technologies but is intended to supply an overview of the available energy sources we can exploit. The list is not exhaustive. This is a blog about hope and taking responsibility for ourselves as a species.

BIO-MASS / METHANE COMPOSTING Methane composting is only one of many ways that power can be obtained. I’ve already discussed methane composting sewage treatment plants. That same basic technology can be applied to cattle farms or to any situation where there is a large amount of sh... faecal material. This is a family blog after all. Of course one must exclude centres of political power and corporate spokes-people because of the metaphorical nature of the waste they produce. Another aspect of bio-mass can be putting tap mines into garbage dumps and extracting the methane there. It can be used to run generators that feed power into the electrical grid, or bottled  and used to run vehicles or pretty much anything where it doesn’t come into contact with food before it’s burnt. Bio-mass can also refer to using grain products to create ethanol, although with the amount of hunger in the world using edible grains to make bread makes more sense, especially since there are lots of other sources for ethanol generation. One of these is a genetically engineered bacterium that eats cellulose and excretes ethanol. Corn stocks, grass clippings, old leaves could all be source material for the liquid fuel of the future. Algie farms for the production of bio-diesel are an other form of Bio-mass as is burning wood to heat your house.

ETHANOL FUEL: (I decided to give it its own heading, so shoot me) When I worked as a shipping and receiving clerk I would toss dozens of loaves of bread and pastries that had gone off date into the dumpster every day. Multiply this by all the stores that sell these products and you have a substantial amount of product going into landfills. This doesn’t even begin to address things like off date candy, syrup and other high sugar foods. These products should be collected and placed in fermentation vats along with some water. Preferably partially treated waste water coming out of the end of the sewage treatment plant. This slurry could then ferment producing ethanol. The ethanol can be distilled off and used for fuel. The remaining waste can be added to the solid waste stream and rotted for methane.