There will come a time when people in the future will watch an old movie and will be able to tell that it is from our era because gas stations will appear in the background of some scenes. Just like we view old movies now, what was once commonplace becomes interesting artifacts lost in time.
So imagine a future when we no longer have to “fill er up” and ruin the earth to extract the oil and pump billions of tonnes of carbon into our atmosphere. Those pictures of gas stations will be a reminder of our era of a shameful dependence upon a filthy, expensive, destructive fuel. People in the future, (my grand-kids and beyond), will wonder how we could have been so stupid and continued to do such a thing for so long with such disregard for their future and the very air we breathe.
Imagine something different. If we insist on driving cars, then let’s drive something that won’t choke us to death or add more carbon. Fortunately there are forward thinkers and scientists who dare to dream and invent such things that we can build on. Electric cars are finally here and now the idea of a solar-electric highway has captured our imagination; a highway system built not on asphalt but on solar panels. (solar panel highway) (animated version). ( I am dubious about crowd funding, but the idea is there). Yes it seems weird and it is easy to think of reasons why it can’t work, but that is because we are stuck in our present paradigm. Perhaps the highway idea is a ways off, but the concept has merit. It starts with an idea, then it works through small applications and improves from there.
Here is an easy idea to grasp: how about the surfaces of parking lots made of these special solar panels that feed a battery storage system that in turn can charge electric cars parked there? Well that just might work. Maybe the highways can have long sections doing the same thing for nearby buildings; or can actually charge cars as they move over it; or provide power to actually move the cars via an electromagnetic, hybrid system, or maybe there aren’t cars at all as we know them, but an inter-connected, electric road system with routes run by computers that individual, independent “cars” can join and the occupant simply inputs a destination – keep thinking and it doesn’t seem so weird any more.
Similarly, India is also developing a linear solar-electric system by covering water canals with solar panels. It is starting on a small-scale for now, but it has huge potential across a country in dire need of electricity, especially in remote regions. (solar panels over canals). By covering the canals with panels, there is no loss of land to accommodate large numbers of panels, electrical conduits can follow the established routes of the canals, vast amounts of electricity will be generated and water loss due to evaporation is significantly reduced. Simple and brilliant, but this too would have seemed far-fetched just ten years ago.
Now imagine no gas stations, wind turbines, nuclear plants, solar panels or hydro dams. What if we could generate electricity without these? There is a consortium of countries (China, India, Japan, Russia, South Korea, the USA and the European Union ) that are working on such an idea called General Fusion. This is a process that fuses atomic nuclei (like the process inside the sun) to release enormous amounts of energy from single atoms. It is so powerful that the energy from the few isotopes found in one liter of water is equivalent to the energy of 1000 liters of gasoline. There are lots of problems to overcome, but if we can all tolerate talking like Donald Duck (helium is a by-product) then General Fusion may be the energy source of the future. (Fusion Power )(reactor under construction) (world research).
In 1974, during an era of muscle cars and cheap fuel, I stated that, ” I hope I live to see the day when the internal combustion engine is in a museum.”
A crazy thought.
Imagine, it just might happen.