Kling on Kurzweil on Solar Power, with an Aside on Politics

Michael Giberson

Arnold Kling notes Ray Kurzweil’s optimistic forecast on solar power (from LiveScience). Here’s the Kurzweil quote on solar power:

“It is doubling now every two years. Doubling every two years means multiplying by 1,000 in 20 years. At that rate we’ll meet 100 percent of our energy needs in 20 years.”

Kling’s response:

This is a case where I have a hard time believing an autoregressive model. At some point, if folks do not come up with a scalable, efficient solar energy solution, the use of solar power is going to stop doubling every two years. If they do come up with such a solution, then the use of solar power should start doubling faster.

Kling offers his opinions on how energy technologies will shake out over the next twenty years — he sees more promise in bio-engineered organisms than in the current crop of biofuels, for example, and includes a nod to KP’s own Lynne Kiesling when mentioning upgrading the grid — but ends with a reminder: “This is just intuition. I am not a scientist. The only people less qualified than I am in this area are the politicians who will be directing our energy policy.”

It seems a less than cheery thought, but I don’t think we can do better than having politicians directing policy. All of the plausible alternatives seem worse.

I’ll be happy as long as we can keep the politicians strictly within the policy realm and as far away as possible from managing the scientific efforts in this area.

One thought on “Kling on Kurzweil on Solar Power, with an Aside on Politics

  1. Meeting all of our energy needs with solar would require either development and deployment of massive electric storage capacity or a major change in lifestyle. Intermittancy, like the “poor”, will be with us always. I view the development of storage as the far more likely alternative.

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