Friday, August 24, 2012

Seducing a fossil-fuel Frankenstein

Peter Boyle and Madeline Kahn
At the point Gene Wilder realizes something is wrong with his creation in "Young Frankenstein," he asks a big-eyed Marty Feldman whose brain he actually ended up implanting into Peter Boyle's head.

"Promise you won't be angry?" says Igor.

"I won't be angry," says the doctor.

But this is classic Wilder. His hair is wild, love-interest Terri Garr is in the background semi-breathless. He will go nuts. After all, Igor's answer is "Abby Something, Abby Normal."

The result is classic. "Are you saying I put an abnormal brain into a 7 1/2-foot-long, 54-inch wide gorilla?" Wilder asks, grasping the earnest Igor by the neck and hefting him off the ground like a rag sidekick.



The U.S. energy industry has installed a series of protocols into its collective head that spew nothing but carbon. So far, solar has a long way to go, even though incremental advances appear to be made on a monthly basis.

Solar developments shine

A couple that come to mind involve a breakthrough by IBM researchers to squeeze more solar power out of cheaper materials and a move by the California Public Utilities Commission that could spur innovation in energy storage for alternative energy projects. Ulicia Wang of gigaom.com says IBM's solar cells made of easy-to-access copper, zinc, tin and sulfur onvert 11.1 percent of sunlight into electricity for a 10 percent gain. The material is important because it uses no rare earth elements, like indium and gallium, which can be difficult to source.


The CPUC in an August 2012 report, Resolution E-4522, gives kudos to three of five proposed solar projects in California that use molten salt to store energy and provide power after the sun goes down. Southern California Edison has requested approval of power purchase agreements for the projects, all developed by Oakland, Calif.-based BrightSource Energy Inc. Each has a 200 megawatt capacity and use mirrors to convert sunlight to heat.

However, the energy storage option earn high marks on the projects, strangely dubbed Siberian 1, Siberian 2 and Sonoran West. "These three projects compare favorably on a price and value basis," the report says.

That's substantial progress.

Carbon earthforms

But decades of domination by the oil industry have been a lot like a Peter Boyle character on the loose. Alternative energy developments are like throwing a bag of marbles at his feet in hopes he stumbles. Not a chance, really.

The fossil fuel industry is entombed in U.S. corporate culture. Just check out the new cars on the road. Maybe they're not as big as before the economic collapse, but they still burn gasoline. A major shift to solar-extracted hydrogen or full-on electric is about as likely as veganism being a part of an election-year GOP platform.

I'm at a loss for deducing a solution. I work at a job that chips away at the problem project by project. It makes me feel like I'm doing a part, just not very significant.

Seduce fossil Frankenstein

Maybe we need Madeline Kahn or somebody like her. She could seduce the monster (metaphorically embodied by Boyle in his greatest role after "Joe"). Where to find this person? Maybe an idea would get the public up in arms (pitchforks, torches, etc.).



Super cheap energy would work. Not natural gas, although granted it's a good bridge fuel.

Just a distraction really. The Frankenstein fossil fuel monster running amok could use a diversion. Madeline is pretty convincing in the Mel Brooks classic. Ideas?


2 comments:

ant werks said...

An article published in 2011 stated that the average amount of time it takes for solar panels to offset their own carbon footprint is approximately two years. We need more than today's old technology. Solar power goes back as far as 1839. In 1883 Charles Fritts built the first solar cell. The first solar cell that was used for the main purpose of power was built by Bell Labs in the 1950's. Using solar cells today would be like thinking the future of cars is the Edsel. New leap technologies are needed; until then, conservation is the true ticket I believe. Good article by the way!

Mike Nemeth said...

A lot of cars on the road today are definitely uglier than the Edsel. Certainly solar isn't anything special, but it can be used to crack hydrogen from natural gas or waste water and we can burn that in existing technology. We can use mirrors and cover a section of Australia the size of the state of Victoria to power the world. But why give all the power to the friends of the Kiwis?