OLLI-week6 2014: Future Promise Part A: Energy and Mitigation

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OLLI – week 6 October 21st, 2014

Future Promise of Energy and Mitigation:

  • Fusion

  • Geoengineering (SRM, CDR/CCS, Carbon negative technologies); economics; fusion

WEEK 6 SYLLABUS: Word document / PDF version

But First: Naomi Oreskes – and How do we know we are not wrong (on climate change) HHMI VIDEO:

FUSION – QUOTING Ron Larson in an exchange of emails:

1.  The best report available yesterday was:


The 10-person Lockheed team possibly has contained a plasma already – but almost certainly no fusion.

2.  There was more today at the Aviation Week site.  Next week’s issue will have this as the cover story, with much already at/near these sites:



All positive remarks.   Mention of a Nobel prize if they meet their schedule.  Personally,  I can’t remember any bigger energy supply announcement – ever – if it pans out.  Of course it may not.  But either way, it should change public thinking about our energy future in major ways for at least the next five years.

3.  Summarizing briefly, Lockheed is proposing a 100 MW plant in a space not much larger than a semi.  Lockheed says this will allow an aircraft to have unlimited range and time in the air.  Supposed to be 10 times better performance than the Tokamak and ITER fusion approaches.  Cheap.  Safe.  All because they are going small.  Lockheed is looking for funding based on a goal to operate for 10 minutes in five years, doing five annual updated designs by then.   If successful, the next goal  will be commercial units available in 10 years.  They announced now in order to obtain financial partners.   My guess is that won’t be difficult.   This particular part of Lockheed has a good science/engineering reputation;  I have found no mention of a hoax.

4.  This announced schedule will eliminate (if, big if, they are correct) the need for much fossil fuel, so a successful reactor should make it easier to get enthusiasm for all forms of CDR.  Their “small” systems can be disseminated widely quickly.  Since they are basically producing only thermal energy, biomass/biochar (rather than natural gas) could be the best non-fossil backup option, with some reduction in the need for wind and solar.

The fastest moving biochar operation today (Cool Planet) is supplying a biofuel.  A successful Lockheed system would cut into the Cool Planet future market some, but their system could not supply liquid fuels.

If 100 MW is near the smallest possible fusion system, this still leaves plenty of market for smaller combined heat, power and biochar (CHPB) systems.

Land requirements can be much reduced if less biochar is needed.  Biochar similarly operates with a small unit scale, which will be favored by many.

AR5; WGIII Mitigation

SLIDES OF WEEK 6 – MOSTLY from Naomi Oreskes’ HHMI lecture (click here) with my annotations (PowerPoint) or (PDF)

Next Week:

Please read WG2 AR5 summary for policy makers: WG2AR5_SPM_FINAL
and look at WGIIAR5-Slides-June_12_2014 (PDF version)


REFERENCES/LINKS added after class:



National Center for Science education (NCSE): http://ncseprojects.org/

On climate: http://ncseprojects.org/climate

Economist article Stan is sharing with us: first one a prelude to the other 2:

  1. Greenhouse gases_ Paris via Montreal Economist 20140920
  2. The deepest cuts; our guide to the actions that have done the most to slow global warming (click here:Curbing climate change Economist 20140920)
  3. Try Jam Today; Policies to slow down warming may be more attractive if framed as ways of speeding up growth (click here: Encouraging climate action Economist 20140928}