Fossil fuels will be depleted to a catastrophic point within 50 years. No combination of known energy sources can produce the 95 quads of energy presently being used in the USA. Therefore it will be necessary to cut back consumption by at least 75% and concentrate much of our wealth on conservation, biomass, wind, and solar energy. There must be a mass mobilization to meet this threat and every citizen must participate. This means that both conservative and liberal philosophies must give way to a determination to work together for survival.
There are several figures of merit for Sustainability:
1 The ratio of population to arable land.. Therefore we must restrict immigration to Academics and stop Urban Sprawl.
2 The average radius of essential travel. This means that living clusters must be designed so that walking and bicycling are the predominant transportation modes.
3 The ratio of volume of buildings to surface area. This means that all single family structures and strip malls must be demolished and replaced with general purpose buildings that are larger and taller. The ratio of underground space to above ground space. Underground space is easier to heat and cool.
4 The percentage of the population working in agriculture, manufacturing, and the essential work of Sustainability. The percentage of the population with a strong technical skill.
5 The percentage materials recycled. Such materials must include sewage, manure, biomass ashes, all metals, and all combustibles.
6 The percentage of buildings which are heated by Cogeneration or Comanufacturing.
7 The percentage of the population working on tree and other biomass plantings. A tremendous amount of reserve energy can be stored in biomass.
8 The percentage of the national budget that is spent on Sustainable buildings and energy machines.
9 The total inventiveness, technical skill, and diligence in solving the survivability puzzle.
Emergency measures that must be taken quickly are the diversion of funds from military and social programs to investments in buildings, industries, technologies, energy producing equipment, biomass production, and food production. We must stop investing in houses, new roads, military and commercial aircraft, airports, cars, and single floor buildings. Ideally every new building would have many functions and should be as large and as tall as possible. Each apartment or general purpose building must live on self generated power a much as possible. There must be factories, farms, and schools associated with every housing complex. We also must design underground buildings which use mirrors and light pipes to bring solar energy underground. Personal transportation must be eliminated by building only apartment houses and designing towns which make it possible to walk to factories, farms, stores, schools, churches, and all of the other necessary places. Bicycles, trains, foot, and horses must be the principle modes of transportation. Each region, town, or building must produce as much as possible of its own food or goods in order to eliminate the cost of long distance transport.
We must have an emergency program to plant 100 billion fruit and nut trees which will furnish food, lumber, and heat. Since biomass is the only dependable energy and is used usually with 30% efficiency at best, it should be principally used in winter months. All space heating should come from cogeneration and comanufacturing. The design of comanufacturing systems should be a principle preoccupation for engineers. An example of comanufacturing would be to operate a wood fueled aluminum foundry in the basement of an apartment building. All of the waste heat would be used to heat the building. In warm weather the foundry would cease operation and the workers would engage in farming. Another example would be to make liquid fuel or charcoal from biomass within the building only in winter. Since this is an inefficient process there would be a lot of waste heat for space and hot water heating.
There must be catastrophically large investments in Solar, Wind, and biomass energy. Much design work must be done on solar mirror boiler systems because they have a better payback than photo voltaic cells. We must also experiment with processing of biomass and coal to liquid fuels using solar mirrors for heat energy.
Kermit Schlansker PE 971 5283