100% of Electricity from Renewable and Non-Carbon Sources in 10 Years

In the best talk of the 2008 Web 2.0 Summit Al Gore called for president-elect Obama to make a man-on-the-moon-like pledge to generate 100% of the United States' electricity from renewable and non-carbon sources within 10 years. Al Gore is truly an amazing orator, and when he got fired up about the climate, renewable energy, energy independence, and how it could play a centerpiece of our economy, I got fired up and so did the rest of the audience.

What really sent shivers down my spine was this observation: When Neil Armstrong first stepped on the moon, the average age of the control engineers running the mission from Houston was 26, making them 18 when Kennedy made his pledge in 1960.

Generating 100% of our electricity from renewables and non-carbon sources in 10 years (let's call it 100-in-10) is the same caliber of challenge, but unlike getting to the moon -- which was something only a government could do at the time -- building a full economy of renewable energy should be orchestrated by the government, but requires the efforts of countless makers. I seem huge numbers of opportunities, both large and small, to make a difference and have impact. Get an engineering degree and invent a new type of powerplant, design and publish plans for low-cost DIY solar home heaters, be an advocate of renewable products and services.

It's clear that a lot can happen in 10 years, and even if Obama doesn't call for 100-in-10, the time to make a difference is now.

This is cross-posted on Makezine here.

Picture of 100% of Electricity from Renewable and Non-Carbon Sources in 10 Years
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purduecer7 years ago
He's super serial, you guys :-P
rc jedi7 years ago
He's pointing that finger, at what? my rear? my wallet! Gas is $1.94/gal here. Alternative energy is now a hobby again, just like in 1974, after the last gas "crisis". If we could use political hot air, then we would have something. Most here are too young to have a perspective of 30 years. We covered this stuff in 1975. Except then it was "The next ice age". The government can't fix things, they break things. Family life, where is the dad? mom gets gov aid. Border security? ha! Welfare, medicare, Godless in education. The largest industry in america is education, and it is in deep trouble. I challenge you to walk through a highschool and not feel threatened. The people make things happen, they pay for it, invent it, finance it, own it, share it, give it, and fight to keep the gov from taking it. Whatever gov has, they took it from somebody. If Al is so great, why don't you send the KGB... I mean IRS more of YOUR money. Oh, don't forget how he invested in these alt energy markets before he made his movie. He made lots of GREEN.
You are right, alternative energy is back, but this time it's going to catch on because we don't really have much of a choice anymore. Brazil was smart enough back during the last gas crisis to covert over 60% of their cars to ethanol. So what's wrong with America? Are we a glutten for punishment? Apparently! We have options. We most definitely have options. But, we are slow and hesitant in taking those options...why? Ford manufactures a vehicle that gets 60 mpg, but is unable to sell it in the US. When asked why, a spokeman said for "political reasons." If we want to be green, we need to do it for ourselves and forget about waiting around for the government to step in and do it for us. Take a stand for your own lives. Buy some solar panels...go off grid...buy a wind turbine...it's not rocket science. Go to any bookstore and find a book that tells you step-by-step how to do it.
So what's wrong with America? Are we a glutten for punishment?

Too many gluttons, period, me fears.

go off grid.....it's not rocket science.

No, not if you have the resources to do it. If you want to feed back into the grid it may not be rocket science, but it definitely is not the easiest thing in the world to DIY.
You are correct. There are too many gluttons in this country. We are spoiled. I have posted on other sites talking about this exact same thing and all I got in response was a bunch of fearmongering about not wanting to give anything up. In reality, our lifestyles would change very, very little, perhaps not noticeably at all. It's a shame, but a lesson we learned from the government, which is to, not institute change, but throw money at the situation. Perhaps one day we will find ourselves in a situation where we no longer need the credit reporting bureaus, but a carbon footprint reporting bureau. Ha ha! Before I get a ton of responses, let me just say that I'm just kidding.
cheap gas is never a good sign for alt -energy. Mark my words, We will be driving gasoline 20 years from now. There just ain't nuthin' better. I like electric stuff. But it isn't convenient or cheap.
You are right in that cheap gas will once again put American's minds at rest, however, we need to be relentless. There is something much, much better than gasoline...propane. Gasoline-powered vechiles can easily and cheaply be converted to propane. You get just as much power out of propane as gasoline, it emits much less pollution, and, the best part is, the engines of vehicles that have driven their whole lives on propane fuel last much longer. They are clean as a whistle with no sludge. As for electric...I hope some day they do make an electric vehicle that is convenient and cheap. Only problem with electric is where electricity comes from. Most of our electricity these days comes from generators burning fossil fuels, so electric vehicles do not yet mean little or no pollution. If we switch to solar and wind power, then electric vehicles will mean help for the environment. For now, propane is our best bet as a crossover fuel. Fossil fuels are done. Too many people know the truth (the truth that oil companies have kept hidden for decades now) and will soon be obselete. There are too many better, cheaper, and cleaner alternatives out now.
Tis ok, one day the credit reporting bureaus will probably bottom out...we have already seen the effects of a tiny ripple in that system...*sigh*
He's pointing that finger, at what? my rear? my wallet!

Didn't a parent or an uncle ever point to you like that and say: Pull my finger! ?? |:-)
actually three of his fingers are pointing back at himself ...
When an uncle would do that, they normally had to expel gas, and when you fell for the pull my finger thing, they would release it, loudly :-)
To be factually correct we should point out to your readers that agriculture is currently the largest industry in this country.
. Wow! You're placing an awful lot of responsibility on Mr. Gore. He is not a god, nor is he in any position of great authority. His crusade is against GW, not other social ills. . If GW is as bad as AG is saying, then all the problems you listed pale in comparison to extinction.
Caption time! Gore: Is that ManBearPig right there? No its just Willie nelson
ha ha ok ok ok audience: AHHHH MANBEAR PIG! gore: i shall shoot it with my gun i formed with my hand!!!!!!!!!!
ok........ that's not wierd at all..................
jeez, someone hasn't watched south park...
sounds like something taken from an old Outer Limits show
sounds like waaahhh??
Ok, I believe the series went from the era of Black and white TV to around 2002...on an off and then the NEW Outer Limits came on for awhile...Here, is the opening of the original series...

And this link takes you to the Episode I am referring to... although it is not a "playable" video.

ahhhh, sci-fi...
Thoughtful Sci-fi too :-)
oooohhhh!!! why?
They tended to end with a "moral" to the story.......For instance: It is said that if you move a single pebble on the beach, you set up a different pattern, and everything in the world is changed. It can also be said that love can change the future, if it is deep enough, true enough, and selfless enough. It can prevent a war, prohibit a plague, keep the whole world... whole.
ahhhhhh... Move a single pebble... deep enough... whole... eh, i don't think so... The world is a big place, a small difference sure, but not one to be noticed... sounds kind of cheesy to me, iamo...
Have you not heard of the butterfly effect (Outer Limits made the statement long before science acknowledge the Butterfly Effect).
OOOHHH!!! i see!

like a big, natural rube goldberg machine!thoughtful indeed...
Yes! You've hit the nail on the head. Complex systems with many hierarchicial levels of interaction, are very much like Rube Goldberg machines (the name ought to be capitalized, since the cartoonist was a person :-).

And the key annoyance feature of RGMs is that everything has to be perfectly aligned. If things are off just a bit, then it either won't work at all, or it'll end up doing something completely unexpected and undesigned.

That is what "sensitivity to initial conditions" means.
ooohhh, ok, i see...

Have you seen that honda commercial with the Rube? My science teacher showed it to us... We're making rubes sometime soon.

Turns out, they didn't do it all at once, since it was just too chancy, but each individual action is real...

Here's the vid:

Very nice. There was also a Mythbusters episode where they built an RGB. They eventually got it to go in one take, but they showed three or four of the attempts that failed, just to give you a flavor.
i know, that was the... christmas special? i want to make mine realllyyy small, like 1 cubic foot, or something... And like make it take pennies... The goal is to pop a balloon. any suggestions? My dad didn't really say much. Just that it was more "art" than "science"
Oh there is a lot of physics involved with the RG devices, as the Mythbusters found out, some of it is fairly chaotic.

A marbles rolling along a slot, being stopped at the end, then dropping onto a lever that flips it over to whack a spinner of some sort, that flicks another marble to drop onto another lever with a needle embedded in it, that end hits the balloon and bursts it.....just kind of a starter idea....embellishment is encouraged ;-)
yeah, physics involved, but it doesn't take any calculations, or anything...

just trial and error...
you could use calculations...even if only to get close
but they aren't required... A good rube takes skill, sure, but no calculations...
Practice....it is a form of practice. Practice does NOT make perfect, only Perfect practice makes perfect. It is always good to practice on things you can figure out without the calcs. ...helps get it into your head better ;-)
yeah, i guess...
It is funny, because this is also a very Jewish concept: one person's effect on another, can have a far reaching effects on many if not all of the community. This concept has been around for quite a few millenia. :-)
ha ha, so the jewish were the ones who inspired TEH RUBE GOLDBERG MACHINE?
Hmm, the idea of the butterfly effect maybe ?
i'll have to make a rube for science class soon...

Nice beard, is it done yet?
The beard needs a good trim, as soon as I can get a trimmer :-)
it looks like you gave it a perm! you have naturally curly beard hair, but not head hair?
The head hair will get wavy if I let it get too long....which I try not to do as it is an annoyance to wash and deal with :-) The beard I can comb out nearly straight, but that too, is getting long enough to get wiry"
give us pics when you've trimmed please!
Yeah, as with my head, my beard is long ONLY because I can't yet afford the trimmers.....I will be sure to switch to the Trimmed version, when it occurs
what? i thought all you needed was a special set of scissors... no? you need one of those fancy electric ones?
Scissors take forever and a day (ask anyone that has made the attempt) and is only for fanatics.....I just need the cheap-o trimmers with a guard on it to keep me from buzzing it down to stubble.
ok, i see now... I assumed those were 20-30 dollars... how much do they cost??
ooohh, plus shipping can be bad... and it is just a beard... WAIT WAIT, great clips will trim for cheap enough...
Well, having the trimmers, if I decide to lose the beard, I can use them to trim a single blade of grass at a time, or trim my hair at the edges, or maybe prank my wife (since she says she is going bald, why not make it true?) seriously, I would NEVER do that, but I have considered it a few times ;-)
ahhh, i see, good point. :P
Ummm....er...... no

Exponential sensitivity to initial conditions, and the term "butterfly effect" itself, was pointed out in the 1890's by Edward Lorenz (not to be confused with Hendrik Lorentz of relativity fame). Ray Bradbury popularized it in 1952. Both long before the Outer Limits (who basically borrowed Bradbury's plot :-).

Links taken from the article you cited ;->
Ok, my mistake on the chronology of quotations....excepting that the concept, at least from a social standpoint, was with the Jewish community even before all of that. Somewhere in the Shisha Sedarim (Mishnah) I remember reading of the expounding of the idea of leshon ha-ra` (either in the Nezikin or the Tohorot; I think) or evil speech, having an effect, not only on the person it is aimed at, but on all of the community.
You're quite right, and no "apology" required! I was just amused that I got all of my "corrections" from the very Wikipedia article you had linked :-) See my discussion of LEDs elsewhere for an example of me doing the same thing :-/ I had no idea about the Judaic history, and I thank you for broadening my kinowledge base.
Yes, I sometimes tend to spout what I believe to be a factoid, then back it up with a reference to a sight that proves me incorrect or at least, inaccurate :-) I can be a plethora of inaccuracies at times (my knowledge it much to generalized in many cases). I am off in search of the LED discussion you participated in :-)
It was between me an "binary" (his username is all 1's and 0's), I think in the Tech forum. Sorry I can't be more specific, but I can't get to my old comments :-/
I know who it was! It was 11010010110! Let's just call him 210 6 from now on. I hate that guy's name. Nothing against him, but seriously, that's hard to remember. Glad we don't use binary for math normally...
We could say 0x696, or 03226, or just "binary guy" :-) Hey, how long do you think it'll take for him/her to run across this discussion?
Binary Guy it is! Lol, I'm surprised they haven't already!
Psst, just don't start calling him Bi-guy, for short.....I doubt if he would like that LOL
"what 4.5 million LEDs look like, where the quote is:

(if I had read through the full Wikipedia article, I would have seen the additional information).

Yeah, when I remembered the incident, I found it pretty quickly in the search forum comments section
Ugh, the cold in my head is making typing difficult at times:

my knowledge is much to generalized
ah yes, I remember reading that one before, too :-)
Most of the morals at the end of Outer Limits episodes are pretty cheesy. Nevertheless, as GH has pointed out below, the basic idea, technically called "exponential sensitivity to initial conditions," is a core feature of classical mechanics. It's one of the main topics of study in chaos theory (the other being the existence and identification of attractors in phase space). If you want to see the effect manifested in a pseudo-practical application, set up a trick shot in billiards. Line up half a dozen balls pointing at a pocket, but separated by gaps the size of a ball. Now put the cue ball far away, and try to shoot it so the whole line collapses and the last ball goes into the pocket. If you change your initial shot by even a tiny amount, the end result will be completely different.
I like chaos theory for a completely dumb reason-I kinda like the connectedness it implies, that what I do can somehow affect a person halfway across the globe and vice versa (oversimplifying horrifically, I know, but the general idea is what I find cool).
I agree! In high school, "physics" is presented as this simple, mechanical, "clockwork" system (what Newton and the Cartesians thought it was 300 years ago). Chaotic systems, which are completely grounded in classsical mechanics, show you that real, unpredictable, "irreducible" complexity can arise from very simple rules. P.S. While your specific example may or may not be realistic, I don't think you're really oversimplifying.
Gjdj3 kelseymh7 years ago
Sorry to hijack the thread! I just wanted to ask if the weather would be an example of a Chaotic system? Because in physics, it all sounds so simple, but predicting the weather is almost impossible to do long term with any real accuracy.
kelseymh Gjdj37 years ago
Yes, weather is the canonical example of a chaotic system. That's where the term "butterfly effect" originated -- Lorenz used the term to refer to the idea that "a butterfly beating its wings in China could affect the path of a hurricane in the Atlantic". It's an exaggeration of reality, but the principle is clear.
Yeah, in HS textbooks (the ones I've seen anyhow), physics is this horribly boring, straight-line process presented like: Cause Y brings about Effect X (but never Effect Z). Just so many formulaic rules. There's just nothing interesting in there! It's enough to replace prescription sleep aids! :D I'm for more interesting textbooks in general. Who wants to slog through a dull book? They could so easily be stimulating and compelling even, with some changes by the writers... Oh, good, I was hoping I understood it correctly.
Yikes, are they STILL doing it that way in schools? *shakes head* and they wonder why our students are so far behind the world *sigh*
[ This is one of my soap boxes. If you don't want a diatribe, stop reading now... ]

Sigh....I got into physics despite that G*d awful textbook presentation. I had a really good teacher in high school, and my voracious appetite for old science fiction (Heinlein, Campbell, Blish, Bova, Asimov, Clarke, et al.) had already set me on my career path.

Really, there are all kinds of interesting things in there. Just not in the textbooks :-( Physics (okay, Science, including chem and bio) is about discovery. It's about looking at something really complicated that you don't understand, finding pieces that are simpler, and working them out. Then you go back and put those pieces together to understand the original complicated thing. It's about finding the essential core of a system, and trying to replicate that core in a way that you can manipulate, and study, and comprehend.

I know that sounds like a reductionist manifesto, but it doesn't have to be. "Finding pieces" doesn't necessarily mean breaking something down into components, and then claiming the complex whole is "nothing more than those components. You can do physics and be holistic at the same time --- you can recognize the hierarchy of levels, and different physical laws that apply at each level.
ooohhh!!! i love billiards!

but the world isn't always like billiards...
A butterfly could change the path of a tornado, but is it really that likely?
You're asking a quantitative question. That means you have to understand the quantitative science from which the correct answer is to be derived. I recommend you either take a good course in statistical physics and chaos theory, or read a good textbook on the subject. Then come back and tell us about the likelihoods.
... so you don't do that stuff? O... I'm still in middle school... :-\
I do particle physics :-) I'm interested in all of this stuff, and do read "popular" articles (and even the occasional journal article or preprint), but it's not my day-to-day work.

In middle school? My apologies--on the Internet, it's hard to tell how old you are :-) You've probably taken pre-algebra by now, or maybe even "Algebra I" (whatever they call it at your school). That's enough to get through some basic physics, but not really enough for statistics.

However, we can go through some logical, qualitative arguments. You had commented, "A butterfly could change the path of a tornado, but is it really that likely?" If you ask whether a particular butterfly could alter the path of a specific tornado, the answer is quite likely to be "no."

However, the point of the metaphor is more generic. Suppose you're already observing the tornado's path, and you want to ask "where will it go next?" You try to measure everything you can about the environment -- air pressure, temperatures, gradients (how the temperature or pressure changes with location). You construct (with software) some sort of model, based on physics, which tells how tornados move under those different conditions.

Feed in all of your measurements. You may still get a completely wrong answer, because a tiny change in your inputs will, after you integrate over time, lead to an entirely different outcome. The metaphor is referring to this problem: if you change your input air pressure value by an amount equivalent to the pressure of a flapping butterfly, you could end up with a trajectory that is different by tens of kilometers.
ahhh, i see...

yes, i have been doing some calculations my dad taught me.
Simple stuff, just calculating the energy in my capacitors, and the velocity...
It's all for my COIL GUNZZZ

Theoretically, my biggest coil gun could shoot a 1/4 inch, 1 inch long rod at over one kilometer per second.in theory... If i'm lucky, i can get half of that power...
Great! You have to know how to do those calculations to properly design anything. And you're discovering the need for "safety factors" to account for losses, inefficiencies, and things you didn't think about. So, with your biggest coil gun, what kind of range (distance) can you get with your projectiles? And what angle would you use to fire it to get the maximum range (and why)? Extra points if you don't ask your Dad :-)


My dad will get back to me on that, he's busy...

...I started writing up a description of how to solve the problem, using just algebra. I realized very quickly that it'll be much easier to understand with a few diagrams :-) You could look at one of the nice animations Adrian Monk posted recently, or just wait until your Dad's available.
NO NO NO, just write the algebra!
This comment is way too narrow :-) I'm going to create a topic over in the Physics group with the details. Just follow me there...
ha ha, deal!
puffyfluff7 years ago
I think it's rather a shame he didn't become president. He would've done a great job of cleaning us up.
I have a surprising number of theories on how to solve this problem.
you like mccain? ughh... ihatemccain!!!!!
DYLEGO DYLEGO7 years ago
and no, he would have done a sucky job cleaning us up withe EVEN MORE OIL DRILLING
Goodhart DYLEGO7 years ago
In this portion of the thread, we were writing about Al Gore, not McCain. :-)
just a misunderstanding, next time say who you're talking about...
Sorry. I assumed most people would realize that I was talking about the forum subject.
...Ummm, most of us did. That's why several of us were able to help clarify the apparently confusion :-) It was especially obvious since you made a top-level comment which must trivially reference the forum subject :-/
Yes, exactly. I was trying to clear it up for DYLEGO.
kelseymh DYLEGO7 years ago
No, puffyfluff means Mr. Gore. Remember Florida?
Okay, I wasn't talking about McCain in that comment, I was talking about Al Gore. McCain's green energy plan sucked, although I liked almost everything else about him.
i hate more than almost everything else about him
That's your choice, and I respect it. I'm not telling you to like McCain, I'm telling you my opinions.