Engineering the Transformation of Civilization and Winning the Future as a Nation

Now we have X and Y and they’re the best things to have. But Z is a thing of the future. And if we don’t get a piece of that action, we risk everything we have. I mean not now, but, ah, ten years from now Generalizing a quote from Tom Hagen in the Godfather.

Now the US has Fracking and SUV trucks and they’re the best things economically to have. But batteries and transportation and grid transformation are things of the future. And if we don’t get a piece of that action, we risk everything we have. I mean not now, but, ah, ten years from now. [by Brian Wang of Nextbigfuture]

China has gone all in on the electrification of cars, buses and trucks. They are using batteries in conjunction with pumped hydro and high voltage energy transmission to make their electric grid future capable. Trucks and other systems are going through comprehensive pollution mitigation if they cannot go to a completely clean system.

China is on pace to have 25% of all new cars in 2025 being electric cars. It is conceivable that nearly all new cars in China could be electric and self-driving cars by 2030. There are limiting factors. There is the supply chain for batteries and other components and the factories to put the batteries and cars together. It is not just batteries for all new electric cars. It is electric batteries for cars, buses, trucks, utility-scale storage, planes, drones and more. There is the nuance of where batteries have the most or best impact compared to alternatives. Certain things in certain use cases make more sense to be first. Batteries are projected to be scaling for a 17X increase by 2030.

This is still not nearly enough. You can consider how much is needed if you want high percentages of intermittent power like solar and wind and not have it wreck your grid. You need reliability because solar does not generate in the dark and solar and wind drop to ten percent in the winter months as compared to the summer.

Electric buses can be a significant part of the transportation and overall global solution. China has 330 million cars but 1.4 billion people. Clearly, the vast majority are using electric scooters, unpowered bikes, buses, ride-sharing, taxis, and subway. Cable-less elevators that move in and around and to multiple buildings in a denser urban core or in high-rise apartment zones can also be significant in many Asian cities. City layout matters in terms of an overall urbanization-transportation solution.

Batteries are clearly central to getting a solution at scale for transportation and energy. The decisions around 100X in responsive energy storage or 1000X in responsive energy storage is a more complex question. The need for 40X by 2030-2035 is clear. Other alternatives can be scaled for significant cases.

The Hugeness of the Fracking and Natural Gas Revolution

For those who think the US cannot do global impacting industrial development at scale, the US spent or lent over $4 trillion to enable the fracking and shale oil revolution. This is enabling the US to add a Saudi Arabia of crude oil and more natural gas over fifteen to twenty years. The use of natural gas which can be far less polluting and can have half the CO2 emissions of coal. The gotcha is that the gain only happens if you keep methane leakages at the field or pipelines below 1% or at most 2%.

The US oil production is at 12 million barrels per day of crude oil. Another 4 million barrels per day will probably be added in the next two or three years. The US moved up from 5 million barrels per day around 2000 to his level. Getting to 16 million barrels per day would be a net move of 11 million barrels per day and that does not include the massive natural gas move.

Abundant and cheap natural gas powers industry. Making plastics or building stuff you need the energy and the chemical feedstocks. Those things come from cheap natural gas.

I was not just being witty with the adapted quote at the start of this article. Fracking has been the best thing to have economically. The SUV truck part was more a statement of fact of US car production.

However, it is short-term to win with fracking, natural gas or coal. Getting positioned, moved and committed to electric vehicles and batteries is critical. As I and Tom said, maybe not now, but ten years from now. More true commitment is needed now. Fracking levels of planning and commitment, which I remind you is like $4 trillion.

Winning the now of Fracking is not winning the future of self-driving, electric cars and batteries. It is not winning the transformation to more efficient cities or national and global transportation and supply chains.

However, it is not a general call to just try to build more solar or rush to get out of fossil fuels. You need to look at how best to shift industry, cities, transportation as part of a system that works better economically and in terms of pollution and emissions.

Taking Computer and Data Driven Planning to Needed Sophistication

For roads and movement around a city or nation, it is not optimal to just use electric cars. Singapore has worked out a more comprehensive plan with walking zones, biking, electric cars, electric buses and subways.

This is the kind of city by city planning that is needed. The coordination needs to be taken several levels higher and needs detailed computer simulation. As Gene Kranz in Apollo 13 says, Let’s work the problem people. Let’s not make things worse by guessing.

Computer simulation of the future cities, future grid, transportation, supply chains, factories and more. Public Simcity should be available to everyone online who wants to participate usefully in planning for Los Angeles, New York, Chicago etc… There should be even more powerful systems for actual city, state and national planners. China has planning where national high-speed rail or high voltage power lines trumps city planning and development.

This is not soviet style planning. This is data-driven and detailed. There can be market force modeling and inputs.

Contractors and large-scale project have to all be digital. Digital files have to be where proposed projects are made, reviewed and modified. The transmission and interaction with city licensing and other agencies and levels and the public needs to be detailed and electronic. Paper forms and submissions with manual review is useless and far to slow.

Automating and Speeding Negotiations of Tradeoffs While Prioritizing and Actioning on Goals

There needs to be the creation of programs that represent the interests of city planners, national planners and various community interests. Catching something in a haphazard makes it slow and random. It is in the developer, corporate, government and public interest for an efficient and fast and digital system to be in place.

It is not just some level of AI and automation. It is standardizing and interoperability of the files, formats and systems. It is processes for managing tradeoffs and negotiation.

There should be click of a button to gather the red flags automatically raised for community ABCs issues on classes of development. This can then go to into communication and fast and short online meetings with designated representatives. Actions of representatives are reviewed and communicated. There is a hierarchy of priorities, scoring method and system for allowing tradeoffs to be instantly made. Not all red flags get addressed but a satisfactory score means that approval can be made.

Scoring and systems can be negotiated with representatives. This could work something like group or Agency X your scoring for the project is -5 but the benefit is 8 for your one of your desired endpoints. Endpoint being for improving climate change and the -5 was related to urban issue Z. Are you willing to sign off or will mitigation 542 work for you. If not I apply accumulated development or environmental credit to buy off the override. Issues and groups get input and parts of what they want in an efficient and comprehensive process that recognizes priorities and tradeoffs while moving as fast as possible to desired goals.

17 thoughts on “Engineering the Transformation of Civilization and Winning the Future as a Nation”

  1. This is not soviet style planning. This is data-driven and detailed.

    That’s what the GOSPLAN folks said. In many ways, they almost pulled it off too. But human factors got involved and they didn’t have enough information nor accurate information so…

    I think some communism providing at least the basics is possible with AI running things. That means all the means of primary and secondary production, energy, transportation at the very least. Whether the outcome will be desirable is yet to be determined.

  2. What it can do and what it has done is two different things. Solar can provide 75% of the electric requirements, electric. As for total energy requirement. I have no idea why we build homes that leak like sieves. We need to stop doing that. Properly insulated, and using heat pump heating/cooling a home solar panel and battery storage unit should be able to handle the need.

  3. People are just getting ahead of themselves. Everyone expects ICE vehicles to disappear except for specific uses (mostly industrial). So, eventually, electric cars and self driving cars will be the same thing.

  4. BTW why do people keep mentioning electric cars & self driving cars in the same sentence? They are totally unrelated. An ICE car can be self driving & an electric car can be non-self driving.

  5. I love how Daniel ‘space explorer’ Ravennest wants us to convert solar energy into stored heat here on Earth. He actually wants to ‘beam’ lunar solar power into your neighborhood… very kludge-y solution to what problem?

  6. According to those figures, solar thermal production actually shrank from 2016 to 2017. Ivanpah burns twice as much gas as expected, to preheat the salt. CSP is also pretty useless except in deserts, since any cloud cover means the light is too diffuse for the mirrors to work (Clouds also knock back PV production severely, but at least you still get some power.) If the power plants are in a desert, it means you need to spend more to get the workers to it, and much more to get the power to where it will be used. Water demand for cleaning the mirrors, and abrasion from dust, may also be problems.

  7. In most countries, peak power demand is in the evening, and peak energy demand, as opposed to electricity demand, is in winter, even in the US. The best solar has done anywhere is about 8% of annual electricity demand – in Greece, Italy and Germany. In the first two, new installation has pretty much stopped, and it would have in Germany too, if the planned subsidy reductions had not been cancelled.

  8. Peak power demand occurs during the day. Peak power demand occurs during the summer. Solar can provide 75% of our daily energy requirement.

  9. Fracking is scrapping the bottom of the barrel. We need to go renewable or inherently safe nuclear while we still have time.

  10. No one is trying to win the future, it’s just business, everyone involved are just “soldiers” of fortune.

    Those dreaming of a bright techno future will have to hope their dreams does not deviate too much from those seeking their fortunes.

    50 years worth of business school graduates will tell you nothing can exist unless it can generate a profit.

  11. The fracking revolution is an intermediate step to the development of advanced fission or fusion power. Either one is a necessary prerequisite for the electrification of transportation that you envision. 4000 Gigawatts is a lot of power. This is essentially 4000 one Gigawatt nuclear power plants or the equivalent in fusion, once one of the privately funded fusion start-ups achieves success (I consider ITER to be a complete waste). Develop the generating capacity first. Talk of electrification of transportation is premature prior to such being done.

    I will consider electrification of transportation as a viable strategy when I start seeing, for example, lots of Thorcon’s MSR plants being mass produced. Until then, its a pipe dream.

    Your “drak twin” has more relevant things to say about this today:

  12. Not a prereq. Buses and electric cars are being rolled it with tens of billions of dollars per year in China. Coal at 72% of electricity. Still provides a halving of CO2 emissions vs high mileage diesel and less emissions in the cities. Emissions are out in the country side at the plant. They have turned on pollution filtration and mitigation systems at the coal plants. Increasing electricity costs by 20%.

    So not a complete step to emissions free or pollution free but a step. China is working on reducing coal reliance. Again with tens to hundreds of billions of dollars building massive hydro and nuclear. But have to get to about 4000 gigawatts of high capacity power plant to get close to completing the transformation.

    The moves and money needed are huge.

    $4+ trillion shifted US dependence on coal down by 25-30% of overall energy mix and will be more than tripling US oil production from 5 million barrels per day to 16 million barrels per day around 2020-2021. Not sure of the exact investment if all pipelines and other infrastructure is included. Plus there is more spent on the industrial, factory and supply chain side.

    So they are parallel or parts of what are needed. But order is not needed. No parts have to wait. It just does not get all of what is needed until it all happens. In this case a half or third of solution is still better than no progress to the needed endpoints.

  13. <I>However, it is short-term to win with fracking, natural gas or coal. Getting positioned, moved and committed to electric vehicles and batteries is critical.</I>

    The development of low cost advanced fission or fusion power is a necessary prerequisite for electric vehicles and batteries. You’re putting the cart before the horse here.

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