Transcending Geography and the Future of World Power

The world we know today has largely been shaped by geography, populations and agriculture. Peter Zeihan has some useful analysis of how geography has shaped geopolitics.

He correctly notes the large advantages the US has had with the best farmland and the best connected river system. Rivers can transport goods at 15 times greater energy efficiency than trucks and two to three times better than trains. Pipelines can be as energy efficient as rivers but have a far higher capital cost.

However, Zeihan does not update to see how megaprojects and technology are overcoming the power of geography to dictate world power.

The US has had the advantage of geography that is resistant to invasion and wars. This is less relevant because nuclear weapons and modern militaries have eliminated most of the perceived gains countries could get from conquering other countries. Wars between developed countries with modern militaries have been very rare since WW2 and especially since the end of the cold war.

The main war that has been deterred by the US has been China’s desire to regain Taiwan. Many geopolitical analysts like to talk about what if the US abandons its role as global peacekeeper. The US did not stop the war between Iran and Iraq. There have been border wars between China and India and India and Pakistan. The US chosen to be not involved or minimally involved in certain situations for decades. The situation then is shaped by the dominant regional players.

* Megaconstruction has reshaped river systems and China has reshaped its inland waterways. * China has upgraded its agricultural land and is fixing pollution.
* Self-driving trucks will revolutionize logistics. It can bring down the cost by about 4 times and can increase the distance driven in a day by 2.5 times. This will give every highway the speed and capacity of a highspeed rail line. Rail will be crushed for cargo and this will further reduce the importance of river shipping.

Geography is already being overcome as countries that make investments eliminate the advantages of other countries or remove their own disadvantages.

Overcoming Dependence on US Consumers

Zeihan also talks about global dependence on the USA for security and markets.

Now the total world consumer spending is over $40 trillion. The US has $13.6 trillion and China is number two with $6 trillion. The European Union collectively has $9.7 trillion and Japan is next with $2.8 trillion. Germany has $2 trillion.

The World and US consumer spending is growing at about 3% per year. China is growing at 9% per year. China’s consumer spending growth is faster than its GDP growth. China’s share of GDP for consumer spending is about 44% when many countries have 54% to 68%. South Korea is the developed country with the next lowest share of consumer spending at 48%. China could grow consumer spending at a 9% pace for several years until it gets into the 55-65% range of share of GDP for spending. This is even if the GDP growth rate drops to 4-5% per year.

China is on track to get to about $8 trillion in consumer spending in 2021. In 2025, China should be at $11.2 trillion. They should reach $16 trillion in 2029. The US market should have still grown to around $17-18 trillion in 2029. The passing of the US consumer market should happen around 2030-2035. This should happen even if China drops from 6-7% down to 4-5% in the early 2020s. The US and China will be within 15% of each other from 2029-2037 in terms of overall consumer spending.

China Reshaped Its Rivers With Dams, Dredging and Megascale Construction

China is widening and deepening all of its major rivers. China has more than 75,000 miles (some 125,000 km) of navigable inland waterways, the most extensive system of any country in the world.

When the Yangtze is high in summer, it is navigable from its mouth to as far as Chongqing for ships of up to 5,000 tons.

Guoyuan, a 16-berth port connected to the railway in Chongqing, shipped 12 million tonnes of freight last year, but can handle up to 30 million tonnes. Every day, cargo shipped from Guangxi, Guizhou, Jiangsu, Shaanxi, Sichuan and Yunnan arrives for transfer to railroad cars, often bound for northern Europe, 16 days away.

By 2020, four new rail-water-road ports and nine specialized ports will have been built in Chongqing, and the aggregate cargo handling capacity of the municipality is expected to hit 220 million tons. The Mississippi waterway handles about 560 million tons each year.

The Yangtze is the world’s busiest river. More than 2.3 billion tons of cargo went through ports in 2016 and is growing at about 6 percent. This includes 330 million tonnes of exports and around 15 million containers.

The 40-year-old Nanjing Port had its channel deepened to 12.5 meters. The port’s capacity has exceeded 100 million tons. Nanjing can now handle ships of up to 80,000 tons.

The waterway from the estuary of the Yangtze to Nanjing was only 7 meters deep in 1998. The channel depth in Jiangsu has been gradually increased, first to 8.5 meters and then 10.5 meters, making it navigable by bulk carriers and oil tankers.

The Xi River is second in importance only to the Yangtze, being the major water transport artery of South China. Ships of 1,000 tons can sail up the Xi to Wuzhou, while smaller craft can sail up its middle and upper courses as well as up the Bei and Dong rivers and the tributaries of all these streams.

In 2008, heavy investments began in the Wu navigation channel. 430 km of the waterway were dredged and there was construction of berths, navigation facilities and huge ship elevators to raise boats up to 200 meters. Navigation was suspended in 2003 when Goupitan hydropower station opened and the water level differential arose. Now water transit has resumed, annual freight volume is expected to hit 15 million tonnes in three years and 100 million tonnes by 2030.

Agriculture Despite Inferior Land

China has agriculture production that has five times the value of US production. China has seven times less land per person and over 4 times the population of the USA.

China’s land now averages production that is only 20% less than the US per hectare.

China is spending hundreds of billions each year to fix polluted farmland and to upgrade irrigation and other aspects of farmland.

Self-driving Trucks

Self-driving trucks will revolutionize logistics. It can bring down the cost by about 4 times and can increase the distance driven in a day by 2.5 times.

A self-driving truck would be able to deliver across the USA in about 1 day instead of 5 days.

101 thoughts on “Transcending Geography and the Future of World Power”

  1. Yes, I was trying to get you to mention specifics. Thanks for replying. 

    First, the Chinese are not catching up to the US economically. If you go by demographics the Chinese are at their peak right NOW. If China is going to make their way without the US who is their market? Europe? European demographics suck too and will be damaged for generations. China has antagonized their neighbors so good luck selling to them. Who does that leave to generate revenue?

    Militarily, China won’t have time to build and train a Navy in time to be of use and, eventually, they won’t have an economy that will support a Navy. Besides, they won’t be fighting the US but Japan. It’s their neighborhood.

    Good luck to China trying to get BRI/OBOR to work. They will need it. Frankly, I don’t think thier pockets are deep enough to pull the project off.

    The US only has to fear China’s “allies” when nukes start flying. Otherwise, who cares? The US is very unlikely to be invaded.

    As to American exceptionalism, the world is welcome to pick up the mess. They will find it a lot harder to deal with without American blood and treasure.

  2. Or the Boring Company digs the tunnels and the driverless trucks enter, turn off their engines, and ride electric sleds.

    Systems with shorter tunnels and much more complexity in cities.

    Future people will probably laugh when they see pictures of our power lines: “They just ran wires attached to the tops of tree trunks? Crazy!”

    It’s a matter of technology advancing enough, and stabilizing long enough, to allow for better and more permanent infrastructure solutions.

  3. An only mostly true statement.
    BTW I have crossed Northern Ontario several times on the 2 (& 1/2) highway routes.

    The climate of much of the past million years resulted in glaciers scraping the soil off of the Canadian shield. However, as the glaciers melted there were temporary lakes dammed by the glaciers which left sediment on some parts of the shield which is farmable where the growing season is long enough. Go to the ‘Inevitable Empire’ article I linked in another comment & scroll down a bit to see a map labeled ‘North American Cropland Intensity’ & you can see some of those patches of farmable land in the more southerly parts of the shield.

    My brother’s in-laws ran a farm in the patch about halfway between Lake Ontario & James Bay. That is the ‘Little Clay Belt’ which is a southerly extension of the main Clay Belt. Highway 11 & the railway it parallels run north & west from the little clay belt through the main clay belt (easier for building roads & railways than most of the shield). My brother told me that people did try to farm the main clay belt, but the growing season was just enough shorter than in the little clay belt that it didn’t work out. Maybe it would work now.

    Look up ‘Clay Belt’ & ‘Glacial Lake Ojibway’ for more details.

  4. “On further thought, SPS and LSP aren’t even mutually-exclusive. So just build either or both – whichever works best.”
    That is the reality. Any start in construction of rectennae and it is off to the races! Criswell sez ~80% of the total construction cost is in the myriad rectennae, thus poor people can put these up with their own effort and own most of their power system right off the bat. And, as far as I know, all SSP systems that use *the* frequency use the same rectennae, no?

  5. More seriously, Bezos does say trillions, but the damage is when it is reported as millions. Millions means nothing. B means nothing. 10 B and it is still too small an amount to be ultimately, so to speak, important, but interesting. 100B limit and people may start looking into this as a possible way to go. Maybe even have some hope for the future. So T is a little further off. Sounds good tho!
    SSP: You have to start with a plan that goes to 20Tw-e pretty fast or it is not in competition with LSP, in particular as a solution to global heating. I’ve heard some are interested in that topic. Maybe give them some hope for the future.
    Better yet, do both projects!

  6. But they are not carried as an orbital load, for such things as strength of stat or station keeping.

  7. Um, I’m not discussing short term plans. Sorry! If you are on the wrong train, every stop is the wrong stop!

  8. > people seem to be unable to hear the word “trillions”

    Thing is, even if we eliminate all death yesterday, we won’t be hitting trillions for a very long time. So it’s not applicable when discussing shorter-term plans.

    At the time scales where “trillions of people” becomes applicable, technology is well into the “seems like magic” realm, even the big O’Neill habitats are likely to be easy, and it’s difficult to have a sensible discussion of that time period because it’s so far beyond our predictability horizon.

    Most people aren’t that far-sighted.

    > 20-200 Tw-e of power.

    In principle, it is possible to build multi-TW and even multi-PW SPS fleets, just not in LEO/GEO. Plenty of room for that in the rest of cislunar space.

    On further thought, SPS and LSP aren’t even mutually-exclusive. So just build either or both – whichever works best.

  9. Then, SPSs have to carry the conductor weight too in SPS, not on Moon.
    . . .And until we get going with O’Neill, it is probably easier to do everything on the lunar surface than getting material to GEO and then manufacturing. This sounds un-O’Neill, but starting easy is a big part of his strategy. Solar panels on the Moon are needed first for a mass driver to start. Keep building them after you start.

  10. I did say the 1/10 thickness figure may be old tech. You have supplied newer tech.
    “Seems to me that at the limit of strength, you’d get about the same thickness for both SPS and LSP.” Limit of strength (needed) is lower on the Moon. I can’t support the idea that lying on a stable surface is easier than being suspended in orbit. Too easy!
    If orbit is even 2X as hard as surface, the advantage over LSP (more area needed) is pretty much gone, with many other probs for SPS remaining.
    Reflectors are close to Earth, even compared to SPS, even in quite high orbits. They are thus more the size of rectennae, not transmitters.
    “so I wouldn’t be surprised if SPS can be made smaller in total, for same power.” Smaller for diffraction, but not more power, so about same price, just different arrangement. (with doubling for day/nite of Moon).
    No real comment on last three issues. Need consideration, but they all favor LSP completely, as it has no such probs at all.
    Looks like the LSP v SPS issue is quite well understood! This is very good! Now I expect to see a great increase in coverage of LSP!

  11. And LSP wins if SPS is not clearly superior on this, as SPS has light pollution and junk problems. Not to mention no plan for 20Tw-e scale for these issues.

  12. I am glad to see an equal treatment of LSP and SPS! It was my goal!
    Now for the killer argument. When discussing O’Neill v planets, people seem to be unable to hear the word “trillions” when Bezos sez it about O’Neill plans. They hear (and write) “millions”. It just happened a few days ago with reporting of his stock sale, for Blue O. Yet that is the absolute end for Mars plans. Mars is simply too tiny, as is the Earth. Case closed.
    Similarly, Criswell has a proposal for 20-200 Tw-e of power. Case closed!

  13. I don’t. This is a question for SSP idea, most of which is controlled by well financed SPS people. LSP is an adjustment to SSP/SPS idea. But I will point out the pilot beam (pilot wave is a quant concept, my mistake) is not for safety, but ease of computation of the main beam. Safety comes from the wavelength used. it is impossible to weaponize that wavelength from that distance. Use of cell phone means you are ok with these levels.


  14. One more thought: the minimum thickness of the solar panels might actually be limited more by conductor size than mechanical strength. Need to carry all that juice to the emitters. That’s another hint that it might be the same for both LSP and SPS.

  15. In the end, though, the whole LSP vs SPS argument doesn’t really matter. As long as it’s made from Lunar or asteroid ISRU, it would still advance O’Neill plans just the same. So just do a detailed analysis with latest tech and ideas when we’re ready to build it, and build whichever makes the most sense at that time.

  16. > If it can stay together, it is too heavy! […] Criswell has said 1/10 as thick as tissue

    I’m not so sure that assertion holds. Tissue paper is ~10um thick, so 1/10th is ~1um. But Google says solar sails can be as thin as 0.1um. Seems to me that at the limit of strength, you’d get about the same thickness for both SPS and LSP. But come to think of it, LSP needs more than twice the cell area: twice due to Lunar night, more due to sub-optimal angle towards Sun (as you also point out elsewhere).

    > pretty certain that the redirectors are very small even compared to the SPS radars

    Depends on the orbits, I guess. But LSP also has the Moon emitters, so I wouldn’t be surprised if SPS can be made smaller in total, for same power.

    > no other structure at all, on LSP

    Neither in SPS, with my hand-waving proposal (or close to it – depends on materials).

    > station keeping

    SPS already have conducting elements for the emitters, so maybe could charge them up and use Lorentz force against Earth magnetic field. Radar/mw is AC, Lorentz charge is DC, so can do both on same conductors. If so, then no extra structure for that, other than electronics.

    > space junk, light pollution

    Again, depends on orbit. May indeed be an issue, may be not.

  17. > sounds like you are saying that the moon is only overhead when it is night time

    More or less, but I admit that that’s an oversimplification. It is sometimes overhead during the day, but in my experience rarely during peak energy use hours. But maybe I just don’t go outside enough, and come to think of it, maybe I’m not estimating the peak hours correctly.

    Still, it’s always only visible from one side of Earth, and not always at the best time.

  18. Great article. It lays out and makes explicit a lot of stuff that the more recent Zeihan stuff glosses over.

  19. When you say “this highly complex electronic system which is literally on another world and was built by a bunch of people you’ve never met can’t possibly focus its GW death beam unless a complex tech feature involving something called a pilot beam is in place”...

    How do you get people to believe this? People who vote against nuclear reactors because they can’t follow the science that shows them safer than coal power stations? People who are afraid that their dihydrogen monoxide has chemicals in it?

  20. First, the Moon is only visible from one side of Earth at a time. And as it happens, most of the power needs are on the opposite side, where it’s sunny.

    Err what?

    That sounds like you are saying that the moon is only overhead when it is night time. Which isn’t how it works.

    If you meant something else then I’m misunderstanding.

  21. Annnnd . . . of course, LSP needs twice the transmitters, too! Day/nite is the big initial hit LSP has to overcome, but it is a known amount factor. From there, SPS costs jump right on by, esp over time, as the sat costs continue. I’ve even *thought* of being able to just spray the panels on the lunar surface as a layer. Would be very cheap!

  22. To continue “heavy” Q: So cells themselves lighter, and no other structure at all, on LSP. “same solar cell area” Ouch more surface, maybe 2 (times sqrt 2?) times for various reasons, well covered as day/nite response, angle changes during day, etc. Part of Criswell’s accounting.
    More uncertain about transmitters’ weight. But total flux seems to indicate same transmitter mass, just in vastly different arrangements. Or even more smaller or fewer bigger, can’t say I have a quess! And again, the redirectors are light and small. Don’t get hung up on redirector mass. They will probably be made and used for Earth to Earth as much or more than Space to Earth at first, once rectennae start existing. Exciting pg 13 of pdf, (which has lost text online! But I have copy if it stays like that.)
    “The SPS solar and emitters don’t need much support, because you can spin them up in zero-g and rely on very light tension elements to hold everything together.” Again, anything you make light in orbit will be far too strong, compare to as needed, on the Moon. And lightness is the key thing needed, at first, where material is hard to handle even if underfoot. But simplicity comes in here, too, as the Moon does its own station keeping and stabilization, forever, for free. Starts to add up for SPS, then throw in light pollution and “Space” junk (it is OUR junk!), and the costs spiral. Now, as with O’Neill, I get to the point where I don’t need the details for at least a strong bias. Hit limit! Bye!

  23. Even tho I had em radiation in physics undergrad, the same pay grade goes here when it comes to phased array true understanding.
    “why do you think SPS sats will need more material than LSP, if you include the LSP’s reflector sats?” On this one point, I’m pretty certain that the redirectors are very small even compared to the SPS radars, let alone whole SPSs. They just reflect the microwaves, quite close relatively to the Earth rectennae, so small diffraction size needs. (Hitting length limit, will continue.)
    “More specifically, why do you think SPS sats need to be heavy?” This is a question that the LSP advantage remains no matter how light or heavy the SPS is! Whatever the SPS solar collecting film weight, for eg, subtract everything but the actual solar active film, which will be less than the needed total film on SPS just to keep together as a film over a distance. If it can stay together, it is too heavy! Make it lighter so that it barely can lie there on a slightly rough lunar surface, after being made and rolled out right where it will be. Criswell has said 1/10 as thick as tissue, but that could be old tech. The important point is that any solar film you use on a SPs will also work on the Moon, but would be far stronger than needed, thus could make lighter. And that is just the film, not the rest of the sat. This sort of realization is the sort of thing O’Neill keeps pointing up about gravity or whatnot to eventually make his case compelling.

  24. Sorry, this is veering into considerations that are above my pay grade.

    Let me ask you a simplified question: why do you think SPS sats will need more material than LSP, if you include the LSP’s reflector sats? More specifically, why do you think SPS sats need to be heavy?

    As far as I can tell, it’s the same solar cell area (and mass) for the same power, and likely similar transmitter area (and mass). If anything, without understanding the physics, my intuition says the SPS transmitters would be about the same size as the LSP reflectors. But LSP also needs the transmitters on the Moon, which my uneducated intuition says would need to be larger than the SPS emitters.

    The SPS solar and emitters don’t need much support, because you can spin them up in zero-g and rely on very light tension elements to hold everything together. With the right materials, the cells and emitters themselves might double as tension members. So overall, my uneducated intuition says LSP might actually need more mass.

  25. You brought up very a good question! The emitters for the radar are the second largest detail other than the cells themselves. I had *thought* that the fact that the Lunar radars had to be 100 times the area meant they would be 100 times as expensive, or some vague amount. But now it seems to me that the power emitters will be the same either way! How the power is formed into a beam is different, a few large beams v many small ones, but the focus (diffraction) problem is not relevant to the number or total power of the emitters. That power is almost all delivered either way.

  26. Reply to edit: All I need from that sort of stuff is the cell and radar tech of the sat, and the price. I’m not going to design a sat! Those are excess costs of a sat. LSP excess costs are far less than these, and the basics cell and radar are well described proportions, as to areas required and radar size.
    Also, I’m also not going to defend power beaming. Where there is the same tech LSP and SPS, I will let the well funded SPS lobby make the case.

  27. Very interesting.
    I’m not saying the advantages are obvious, I’m saying they are obvious or transcendent(meta?) to the engineering details for those who study the plans and understand the Physics. This is the question, is there such a *strong* proof of O’Neill or LSP over SPS that you don’t need much more than the general idea to make a decision. (Seem to have editor trouble after using scroll bar.)
    “But I disagree that’s it’s obvious how much actually needs to be built in each case (LSP vs SPS).” for example, is a statement that the *strong* observation that “LSP is inherently cheaper for reason x”, (if true!), means that no matter how much needs to be built for a sat, which is very much an engineering/tech question, you can say that x means LSP will be still cheaper. X could be something that takes some study, such as:
    O’Neill Space is perfectly obviously true, yet very few think anything but Mars or other stars. The fact that few follow O’Neill does not change the claim I am making. You have not countered my claim by saying I should supply the very thing that is not needed, and indeed is NOT available at this time, the details. Once I know that LSP and SPS both use the same tech for most things, I don’t need to know how efficient the cells will be, for ex, a very important point, because they will both use the same cells. Same radar tech, but known amount more for LSP, if any. Load considerations!

  28. No, that’s my point, that some of the advantages are not as obvious as they seem to you, and physics alone are not enough for some of the questions.

    You say not building stuff is cheaper, and I agree in general. But I disagree that’s it’s obvious how much actually needs to be built in each case (LSP vs SPS). I also disagree that the answer to that is obvious from physics alone, and doesn’t depend on engineering details – of both systems. For that matter, even some of the physics aren’t very obvious, such as the power transmission physics.

    (edit: I should note that by “engineering details” I’m not asking for low-level details. I’m talking about details like choosing the orbits, sat structure, number of sats, etc.)

  29. Then you are entirely missing my main (non-obvious) point! The argument is not that people should see O’Neill or Criswell stuff as obvious, but that, upon consideration, their advantages are *obvious* (inherent?) from the Physics or general considerations, not needing engineering details to justify.
    O’Neill is right, for example, from the multiple Physics advantages Space has over a planet as far as living and working go. No details needed to *prove* that! Indeed, the idea specifically rejects details by limiting tech to (then) current, for simplicity.
    Similarly, Criswell LSP has such clear and obvious Physics advantages over SPS that the details won’t change the advantage. It is insurmountable. Not having to build something is not an engineering detail. It is going to be cheaper. There are quite small *added* costs to LSP if seen initially as a sat, mainly the doubling of all Moon hardware for day/nite lunar cycle, but LSP is still projected by Criswell to be at least 10X cheaper. That is not 20%, that is huge.
    Now, many do not even *see* O’Neill’s idea at all, let alone clearly. Certainly the same for even more esoteric SSP/SPS/LSP. Given the utter importance of global heating, not to mention getting O’Neill Space up and running, please ponder Criswell some more. If he is right, as I have been convinced of for over 30 years, it is the best option we have, far and away.
    And Thanx! for your interest. I hope to get better LSP info organized, now that classes are over!

  30. Honestly, I’m having trouble visualizing everything you’re saying. Probably lacking sufficient background on these kind of systems.

    But anyway, my point is simply this: these cost comparisons are not as “simple” or “obvious” as you claim. They depend a lot on the engineering details, which aren’t trivial. Maybe it looks simple and obvious to you, but not so to other people.

  31. China knows India is the long term competitor. India knows China is the long term competitor. China is heading for a demographic crunch, and India is disjointed with ethnic regionalism. If India holds together, it will be a significant check on Chinese regional and global domination.

  32. Editor keeps locking up on space bar, may be if go thru email notice of reply? (edit-may be after scroll bar is used?)
    Anyway, agree with you on H.
    But redirectors are a very small and otherwise very useful thing, in the overall LSP cost.
    Now, if you look at the costs of SPS at large scale, subtract the cost to build (edit-station keep, maintain, space junk, light pollution) everything but the active surface of the solar film and the radar itself, that should give a little less than half the LSP cost, as there are pairs of stations for obvious reasons.
    All improvements welcome, to any form of SSP.

  33. Now this is good! A specific question based upon understanding of the proposal.
    The redirectors are very light screens prob like rectenna spacing. And they are very small because they are in fairly low Earth orbit, sort of like extensions to the actual rectenna on the ground. This is close even compared to GEO, let alone Moon, so the big stuff is at the sending radar. And all that goes back to the beam strength limit thru the atmos.

  34. I’ve heard of putting bladders under water for pressure of H. But let the market decide on this. The widespread use of H and fuel cells is nothing but good news for wind and solar of all kinds!

  35. So bottom line is SPS sats vs reflector sats with LSP. I’m sure Criswell did the math, but at least at first glance, I wouldn’t say it’s obvious which would be cheaper. Both need material for the sats. I don’t know how much material either of them would need, so can’t compare off the top of my head.

    If you need H eco with LSP (as alt to reflectors), that also adds a lot of cost that may not be needed with SPS. Only way it wouldn’t add cost is if it was built on the same scale anyway, regardless of LSP/SPS or lack thereof. (In that case it’d be a separate independent project, so would be costed and funded separately.)

  36. If you want to store energy with hydrogen, you’d need to store the hydrogen, which isn’t easy to do. Storing water won’t do you any good. On the other hand, multiple options to store energy in other forms, some pretty efficient.

  37. I definitely AM asking for serious work on this idea. It is important, as serious as heart cancer, or global heating. Any interest?

  38. The water to H process is very energy inefficient, as far as we know now at least. The advantages are that from there on out, storage and even transportation problems are pretty much gone. And the power grid can be largely abandoned in favor of pipes and tanks of H.

  39. So, I’m back from my appt.
    You are listing *problems* with LSP that are covered in the short paper I reference. He clearly has redirecting screens in earth orbit. ppg 10 and 13. These are very cheap. They are not relays, just reflectors. The pilot wave and phased array majic make it work. Trust those advising Criswell, he has checked with radar people. (edit: H economy makes these redirectors not needed, unless for Earth to Earth power balancing during transition to SSP.)
    Same with greater distance. Once the power goes up, the antennae have to duplicated anyway to handle the load(6-10 station pairs), so the size cost is not an issue, except perhaps at first. Spreading the antenna pieces over a limb’s slopes allow the collecting cells to be right by the emitters, an advantage over Shimizu plan, for ex.
    I’m looking for people who will come up with the same sort of ideas that improve on O’Neill Habitats or Glaser Powersats. The fact that LSP is cheaper than SPS is obvious. How much? Lets see how much we can make it!

  40. You can’t be this stubborn man, you know what I mean. They are quickly catching up to us economically and will most likely pass us by 2030, not to mention they have already been successful in bringing us to the negotiating table, we want a deal now but they can wait years, we only look the next 4 to 8 years while they’ll look to 2100. Militarily they are becoming equals, while they may not be able to beat us until at least 2050 in a war they have rallied most of Asia and parts of Africa against us. They are winning the PR game by making us look like the aggressor, just look at plans like Belt and Road and you’ll see the extent of their power, big game countries such as Russia, (possibly) India, Pakistan, and a large portion of East Africa are giving China resources and allowing them to expand and build bases. Even though they can’t directly beat us in a war they have allies that would help them and kill millions of us in the process, other countries would support them due to us actively breaking alliances. They also get support from people like you, people that deny that they are equals to America. The world feels American exceptionalism is stupid and arrogant and they would do anything to crush our ego. Short answer, they are picking up our mess and turning it against us, they are an equal and it is time we stop treating them like inferior and stop trying to humiliate them because that just won’t work.

  41. The US is a multi-trillion dollar economy. They can loose a few billion dollars and make change. Hell, they have so much money that a plane load of palletized cash can just disappear (

    As of 2017 the US had a trade exposure of 12% of GDP and half of that was with NAFTA. China is just a part of the other 6%. If all trade was cut off between China and the US the US would have a recession and China would be a mess because their biggest market just went *poof*.

  42. People around here may have opinions and time to post but asking them to do the math and engineering on this sort of thing is asking a bit much. Goatguy might be able to come up with some numbers if he was interested enough. I’m a computer nerd not an engineer.

  43. With hydrogen fuel you use hydrogen to make electricity, with water as the byproduct. If you start from water, you have to spend electricity (or heat) first, to make hydrogen, and then you get some of the energy back when you turn the hydrogen back to water. Not all of it though, since there are losses.

    I don’t know why you want a less dense energy source. The material density (mass per volume) doesn’t really matter much, and with energy density (energy per mass or volume) you usually want it as high as possible.

  44. > you don’t have to build the sats. [Therefore,] Duh!

    It’s not quite that simple. You (maybe) save on the sats, but you add other costs elsewhere.

    First, the Moon is only visible from one side of Earth at a time. And as it happens, most of the power needs are on the opposite side, where it’s sunny. So you either need a global distribution grid (extra cost), or huge energy storage infrastructure (charge when Moon is visible, use when it’s not; again, extra cost), or relay satellites (fewer or no savings).

    Second, the Moon is much further away, so the transmission math is different. May be extra costs hidden there (larger antennas maybe?).

    Third, there may be other extra costs with the LSP plan, which I’m less aware of.

    So the question, which Criswell may have answered, but which isn’t at all obvious, is how do these extra costs balance against the savings? That there is definitely not a simple “Duh!”.

  45. You still have the Canadian Shield which is a harsh landscape (I’ve seen it in person). Basically the entirety of that land is unsuitable for agriculture climate aside.

  46. Seem to have hit a limit there:
    Pilot wave tells the beam where to go. No way to focus otherwise, and too weak to do harm even if attempted. Good news-bad news about frequency, I’m sure you’ve heard before.

  47. Thanx for your input!
    “Why would this be cheaper that using lunar resources to build much closer satellites? This is the usual plan presented for orbital solar power and if you don’t address it then it looks like you are deliberately trying to avoid a weakness in your plan.” I keep repeating: You don’t have to build the sats!!!!” From above: “The main answer to your question is that you don’t have to build the sats.” very simple and obvious truth. No real details to present. More like: Duh!
    “Death ray” I see this as the main educational problem, with the before mentioned power beaming. Only slight difference between SPS and LSP on this, and not an issue! But let cell phone people do the research to educate.
    “A microwave receiving antenna is super cheap to make per square km. Much, much cheaper than solar panels or something. And can be built over crops or something without interference. So the receiver can be many square km, and so work with a beam intensity that isn’t a threat to anyone.” is covered partially on pg 11:
    “ALLOWS DUAL USE OF LAND UNDER RECTENNA” and further things, but this is a SSP problem, not limited to LSP.
    “Various control safety factors, but nobody believes this. Controls go wrong all the time (Boeing 737Max!) and people don’t trust Russian or Chinese or whoever.”
    A little known aspect of SSP power beaming in general, and certainly LSP with thousands of target receivers, is that a pilot wave is sent fro
    I don’t need to do a better job, everybody does!

  48. I’m not sure it isn’t the climate that takes the majority of the credit for keeping Canada behind the USA.

    For one thing, Canada does have heaps of sea access, many hundreds of thousands of km of coastline, that is not accessible because of ice.

    If the world does heat up we’ll get to find out.

  49. I think you miss the point of my comments.
    I can see that you are enthusiastically promoting this LSP idea. And I like it.

    But to get more traction you need to be able to give people better answers. You can’t keep pointing to the same, one, online document, especially if it does not answer their question in any detail.

    If you really want to promote your idea, you need better resources. You need a simpler FAQ type document to point to. (Especially if you can point to the individual Q within that document.)

    You also need a more detailed analysis of the stumbling points.

    The big issues that I see are:

    • Why would this be cheaper that using lunar resources to build much closer satellites? This is the usual plan presented for orbital solar power and if you don’t address it then it looks like you are deliberately trying to avoid a weakness in your plan.
    • Death ray questions. You DO have an answer here, but it isn’t located in one simple, easy to point to, location. It really consists of two points that I’ve never seen explicitly laid out.
    1. A microwave receiving antenna is super cheap to make per square km. Much, much cheaper than solar panels or something. And can be built over crops or something without interference.
    2. So the receiver can be many square km, and so work with a beam intensity that isn’t a threat to anyone.
    • Various control safety factors, but nobody believes this. Controls go wrong all the time (Boeing 737Max!) and people don’t trust Russian or Chinese or whoever.
  50. Battery tech would make trains last longer and would be effective but what is really needed is hydrogen cells(they need more advancement). With hydrogen fuel you can use water to create electricity, water is more scalable than batteries and is less dense. I do agree that we do need WAY more infrastructure projects for rail, from neighborhood to neighborhood, city to city, state to state. If any country can pull off high-speed rail it is the United States (as long as it doesn’t become an inefficient jobs program the the SLS in Alabama, the California rail, or military contracts), there would need to be oversight to make sure everything is done as soon as possible so it wouldn’t be a boondoggle.

  51. I agree freedom to do what you want increases innovation and China doesn’t really have the motivation that American R@D has. Although don’t pin the enslavement of people on China alone, it is American demand and American business that owns these sweatshops. And about China stealing American secret, I mean of course they do, corporate espionage isn’t anything new and is in all industries, countries, down to individual corporations, this has been around as long as inventions have been around. While I’m American and Totalitarianism isn’t a good system for the person it is still highly efficient for economic growth. The CCP promise to the people is economic growth and increase in quality of life in exchange of some personal freedoms. I have been living in Shenzhen for a decade and as long as you don’t be politically provocative and cause trouble then none would come your way (it really was a breath of fresh air for people not to argue politics, just visiting the US I almost had an aneurysm watching the news fear-mongering)! Just saying you can’t put Western principles such as democracy in China, it’s just incompatible, it would be like expecting the West to become majority Buddhist. Of course reform is needed and they should open their market and internet more but going full on democracy in a country that has been totalitarian for thousand of years is a tall order and is frankly naive.

  52. I mean it is true we do have wars in 3rd world countries. Although we are not the only ones and China also fights these countries it is for the resources and for the ‘mini cold war’ with America and the West. And it isn’t about socialism, the American Government puts the socialist label on people so they get American support for funding. China does the same thing in their country to rile civilians in a nationalistic fervor to fund military, like how they say America wants them to collapse even though they know that if the CCP collapses then America could lose billions due to instability in world economics.

  53. They’re actually doing this though, although for each step there is a blow. Their farmland is nonexistent and most of there food is imported from America, not to mention the farmland they have is unsafe. China does have issues but we can’t dismiss their successes, after all they are quickly becoming our equals.

  54. The truth is far more fundamental than geography and infrastructure. In the west we enjoy unprecedented freedom; which leads to great prosperity for all who are willing and able to work hard. American thrift and innovation is greater now than any other time in history – and growing greater! China deploys slave labor, indentured servitude, and they subjugate entire cultures. This is precisely why there are more Christians in China now than communists. China is trying to be a capitalist nation with central control, but that will never work. What makes their economy amble along is they are wholly dependent on manufacturing for other nations. However, the world is beginning to see the folly of that paradigm as more and more, China bully’s it’s trade partners and menaces it’s own population and neighbors. They regularly steal IP’s and technology from their greatest customer – the United States – and America has had it with them. Finally, here’s an advisory to Beijing as they drool over Hong Kong and Taiwan: The spirit of freedom thrives among those people, and should China gobble them up, they may find they’ve swallowed a powerful antibody that just may eradicate that totalitarian rule…

  55. In this case you will have to both actively remove
    CO2 and clean up the power stations at the same

  56. I wouldn’t be surprised if Peter Zeihan wrote that paper. He used to work for Stratfor and it reads like one of his books.

  57. Only part true. The US waterways help make the US more prosperous than Canada, the railways across Canada turned the Canadian Prairies from a complete backwater to a major agricultural exporter.

  58. As an example of a detail, everything changes if you assume the SSP system will grow along with H economy. All concerns for storage and intermittency vanish, as H storage happens automatically, so to speak, as part of that H system.

  59. You don’t understand the term you throw at everyone who disagrees with an article you seem to like.

  60. At some point you will look at this idea I personally have been following for over 30 years and *see* it! The mere fact that you don’t have to make the sats or maintain them should be obviously conclusive as to the cheapest way. The *current* tech details will make any assumptions inaccurate in detail, but that is why we need to think of better details! Both O’Neill and Criswell have presented ideas that are somewhat independent of the tech, when compared to the alternatives, because of the clear Physics advantages they have. After you see that the O’Neill Space advantage is inherent, you will forget Mars, for ex, without having a lot of transient detail required.
    My basic argument is that those who support Space Solar Power should go Lunar Solar Power as the hard stuff applies to both, power beaming esp. Where the sat goes is trivial, if there already is one there!
    Thanx for your continued serious concern for these very important issues and plans.
    BTW, the remembered details for the 50X question involved folding the stuff for lunar launch, so was lunar manufacture. But that was long ago. Criswell worked for NASA as a cost projection analyst for proposed projects, so does have a special feel for these matters.

  61. No, the point is that the infrastructure has to generate enough of an economic surplus to pay for its maintenance. In the case of both the Suez and Panama Canals the economic surplus more than justified the initial infrastructure cost and its ongoing maintenance.

    A random, man-made port in Togo or Nigeria? Not so much. There is currently no commodity produced in infrastructure-poor African nations for which the world is under-supplied and none of those countries have a cost of production that is low enough that the price differential justifies the infrastructure investment.

  62. With flat-back autonomous tractors as in the above picture, and assuming the motors are in the wheels, the entire tractor unit is a removable battery pack. Switch the container from one pair of flat-backs to a another, and you’re good to go. Meanwhile the spent pair stays behind to charge. Once they’re done, they can pick up the container from the next pair.

  63. That citation says

    “Dr. Criswell went on to say he had calculated LSP could provide power at a cost 1/50 that of power delivered from SPS built as O’Neill had recommended.”

    So, not exactly heavy on detail is it?

  64. With the advances in battery tech, I would not be surprised to see a renascence is rail. After all, these locomotives are already hybrids to start with. So is would not be to big a jump to transition to completely electric loco’s. The only stumbling block is that the railways are a lot like utilities. They don’t want to invest in any tech that does not have at least a 20 year proven track record.

  65. Only a moron would think you can build a structure and not maintain it. Environmental activists disgust me. The whole lot of you are only interested in three things, virtue signaling, power and socialism.

  66. Hey it costs a lot of money to ensure every socialist development in the world is stamped out mercilessly

    edit: concludes with
    “I’ll say that if Dr. David Criswell has come up with an alternative to SPS which can undersell it by a factor of 50, then he’s done more to advance us toward space settlement in recent decades than anyone. There could be no doubt his LSP scenario would lead to the High Frontier. For example, any universe in which many thousands of square kilometers of the moon’s surface is being coated in photovoltaic arrays, the manufacture of a lunar mass driver (the most massive part of which would be its PV array) would certainly be done on the lunar surface from local materials instead of it being sent up as a kit from Earth. Thus, in a future Criswell presents us, an important component of the O’Neill vision becomes trivially easy to manufacture.”

  68. No amount of technological success can make a country attractive to live in when the government is committed to ensuring its own survival via the oppression of free thought and expression.

  69. Kind of like spending on tech to actively remove CO₂ from the atmosphere while still releasing over 35 billion tons per year?

  70. And the idea of putting canals through Suez and Panama?

    Ridiculous. Ships will always have to go around the Cape and the Horn.

    Geography is insurmountable.

  71. One additional thought, the next world changing advance in transportation won’t be trains or physical earth bound transportation. You still need to include the maintenance and once you include the maintenance the cost advantage of water goes from 10 to 1 to nearly 50 to 1. If you look at China the fact is that incomes in the interior are still dirt poor and for the most part less than $3 a day on average, despite spending trillions on new transport. All of the growth and wealth is still in the coastal districts in China despite the central government;s best efforts to change the equation.

    In the end transport will change the geopolitical equation, but it won’t be from better trucks, or trains or airports or other fixed infrastructure. It will be from space based transportation. One large asteroid could potentially contain several hundred times the amount of gold and precious minerals mined every year on earth and whoever develops a cheap space transportation system will essentially wreck the entire resource based economy of the planet with the first large asteroid they tow to earth orbit. Right now its looks like SpaceX or maybe Blue Origin will accomplish that feat, but China is well placed when compared to Europe or Russia and it looks like it could be a follower to the US in this endeavor. In that case the US followed by China would smash the transportation based Geo-Political order and woe be it to Europe or the Soviet technology stagnant Russians.

  72. “The World and US consumer spending is growing at about 3% per year. China is growing at 9% per year.”

    A little out of date on this one. China’s consumer spending is falling, auto sales which is the best measure of consumer spending are down 12.4% over the last year in China. During the great recession they fell by 18% in the US during the first year, so essentially the same thing is happening to China’s consumer spending that happened to the US in 2008. Also, consumer spending is largely driven by 30-45 year olds who are buying houses for the first time, cars, stuff for the kids, etc. In the early 2020s the last large generation of Chinese, or those born before 1982 will age out of the consuming demographic. So the consumer market is unlikely to get any better than it is. Also, in 2019 China became older than the US on average and is aging faster than any other major country. The future of a consumer market in China doesn’t look bright from a demographic standpoint.

    So for China there really isn’t a substitute for the US market. The US market will be the only growing consumer market in the developed world in the 2020s due to the fact that there are more millennials than baby boomers (which is unique in the developed world). Sorry but in this case it’s called demographics not geography. China needs the US market, unless you believe that Africa will all of the sudden become rich and you can substitute Africans for Americans as consumers.

  73. Interesting how China is spending big on infrastructure while the US spends big on waging war against 3rd World countries.

  74. See the idea. The main answer to your question is that you don’t have to build the sats. Est. 50 times cheaper per area of cells, so much to play with and still be better.
    Another big answer is simple-light pollution from sats, no extra from Moon with LSP.
    edit: I do agree generally with your space first bias, but the surface of a planet is in the mix if the process requires surface area, eg Space Solar Power. Criswell may be considered a small correction to O’Neill.

  75. Until you get hit with Swine Ebola like now. 1/2 of Chinese hog production has been eliminated by the virus.

  76. Why would you want to put those solar power bases on the moon? In open space you wouldn’t have to worry about moon dust getting into everything and it would be easier to build and service remotely. Look ma, no gravity well.

  77. I’d like to see battery powered class 8 tractors, with overhead DC power lines available on upgrades, and intermittently on flat land. Charge, and climb grade at the same time.
    The DC current could go directly to the DC bus, at say, 800VDC. !000 Amperes gives 800 kW(1072 hp). This system might actually work better with supercapacitors, and frequent overhead cables.

  78. The notion that man-made infrastructure can permanently surmount natural geography is absurd. That’s a statement made by someone who’s never hiked extensively in the mountains or otherwise away from civilization, never taken part in maintaining a building or other infrastructure, and never witnessed the harshness of the oceans on what man builds.

    The Saudis have had all the money in the world and the best engineers and civil construction firms money could buy but they can’t maintain roads through the desert… because the desert literally eats the road.

    The Soviets weren’t shy about marshaling labor, yet they weren’t able to build a complete “road” across their country and they can’t do jack about which direction their rivers flow.

    Throw all the capital you want to at Africa, it won’t suddenly become prosperous… and what you build won’t magically last forever.

    As for war, “only the dead have seen the end of war.” – Plato

  79. Presumably, the same commodity produced in China, is more valuable than in the US, because it need not be shipped. More valuable perishable produce can be grown because markets are closer.

  80. “China is spending hundreds of billions each year to fix polluted farmland and to upgrade irrigation and other aspects of farmland.”

    Well that is good news. Maybe they should also stop actively polluting farmland too. Because doing the polluting and doing the cleanup is just a giant broken window fallacy.

    Remediation is obviously necessary but you stop making more problems to fix because that is an expensive way to get to full employment.

  81. The US rail system has been contracting for years in terms of miles or rail line. Mostly pruning the unneeded branches.

    It is ripe for elimination of long trains. Think smaller automated trains that are greater in number. The current average throughput of a rail line is nowhere near the maximum throughput of a rail line.

    Much room for improvement once the rail companies turn their infrastructure in to a physical manifestation of the internet. The rail system is like a fiber network being used to route email messages with an occasional picture.

  82. Hmmm. A purpose build 2 lane private road with a speed limit of 90 mph with nice emergency shoulders just for autonomous semi-trucks would be nice.

    Fill up a semi with 300 gallons of diesel let it drive all day. Refill in 10 minutes and repeat.

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