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No, but there is very, very little reason to belive that a properly designed post carbon grid will cost us any more per-kwh than coal does, and very good reasons to belive that it will deliver equivalent-or-lower costs than coal with the additional bonus of lower externalities.

Pathway "Absolutely zero technilogical advances happen, but we go low carbon anyway": This means instituting copies of the French, Swiss and Swedish grids everywhere, because those are the already extant low emission grids. Yes, this means mean, vicious, ugly nuclear power. Boo-hoo. You know what else those grids have in common? They produce electricity cheaply. About half the cost of german electricity, with a tenth or less the emissions per kwh.

Pathway: "Very conservative estimates of the technological progress of renewables hold true, and real money is spent on them for the purposes of actually producing power, rather than greenwashing coal/gas" This means no solar whatsoever (in europe), wast windfarms, robotically controlled kites harvesting energy from the jetsteam above our cities and chunks of granite the size of small mountains being raised and lowered hundreds of meters to store power enough to power the entirety of the union for weeks on end. All of which will cost us less per kwh than most of europe presently pays.

Pathway: "Technological surprise": Someone perfects something clever. - There are half a dozen technologies under development that hold out the promise of stupidly cheap electrical power. Not free electrical power, because most of them will still need at least to pay for grid maintainance, but significantly cheaper than either of the first two senarios. In order of probability:

  1. Cheaper, safter, and just generally superior  fission reactors via ground up redesign - Molten salt, fission fragment, gas phase. Most likely out of India.
  2. Small scale fusion : One of the dozens of teams working on achiving fusion via any of a half dozen of esoteric ways to confine, heat and compress very small amounts of plasma succeed in producing a design that is a viable power source. Possibly even the coverted aneutronic boron fusor.
  3. LERN.
  4. WTF? Did not see that coming.

To sum up: the future will be short on oil. Gas will be expensive. Coal will, if there is any justice, be outright illegal. Electricity? There will be lots of electricity. All the electricity you care to pay for.
by Thomas on Fri Jul 22nd, 2011 at 02:20:30 PM EST
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