Documentary: Fusion

Can We Make a Star on Earth? is another great BBC Horizon documentary, this one hosted by the always excellent Brian Cox.

This segment is especially interesting, highlighting our need to use our current petroleum-based energy to develop new energy sources, including fusion. If we don’t speed up our efforts dramatically, it will be too late before we know it. If we apply a great deal of human and energy resources now, we can create a smoother transition for ourselves.

This is also a reminder of why the global warming debate is a sidetrack. First, because there is universal agreement among climate scientists that (a) significant climate change is happening and (b) it is caused by human activity. (The ones sowing the seeds of confusion are not climatologists, and the campaign to create confusion is fueled by the petroleum industry, taking a cue from the tobacco industry.)

More importantly, fossil fuel is running out and we need to put a great deal into the transition right now. We can’t afford to wait, partly since we need the current petroleum resources to fuel the transition, and partly because we don’t know how much oil is left. We have to act on the worst case scenario. The consequences of making a timing mistake are too great.

And we need to take a broad, yet informed, approach. We have to research and develop all the viable energy sources, from wind (windmills, kites) to ocean (waves) to solar to fusion (if possible) and more. (Ideally not fission since it will most likely have grave consequences for thousands of generations of our descendants. And biofuels seems to have too many problems to be used on a large scale.) At the same time, we need to be smarter about how we use energy. We need to use it far more efficiently, and also reduce our need for energy.

All of this can be done in a smooth way if we put a great deal of effort into it now. Way more than we are currently doing. It will further existing industries, create new ones, be a great catalyst for creativity and research, create a great number of new jobs, and vitalize our economy.

The alternative is to wait too long, get on it too late, and have to adapt to the consequences – which may not be pretty.

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