Thursday, May 24, 2012

"What does it cost to turn your favored form of energy into power?"

Andrew Revkin has posted, to his "Dot Earth" blog on the NY Times site, this comment by Dale R. McIntyre

"This primer is named “The Watt” yet it purports to be a primer about energy. The watt is a unit of power. If this primer was really about energy, it should be named “The Joule”.
This is not a picayune point. Everybody talks about energy but what everybody really wants is power.
“I sell, sir, what every man desires to have-power” — Matthew Boulton, 1769 ...
Power is the rate at which work gets done. Energy is the ability, theoretical or actual, to do work. It may be potential or kinetic, stored or chemical. Energy by itself is useless."
But by transforming energy from one form to another we can create power. And do useful work in a thousand forms. And it is power — work done divided by the time it takes to do it — which has raised humankind above the level of the beasts,
turns the wheels,
bakes the cake,
cools the wine,
lights the lights,
and permits this very discussion.
This distinction greatly clarifies the mind and would be a great aid to policy, if only our politicians would grasp it. Never mind that clap trap about “there is enough sunlight (or wind, or wave energy) falling on the U.S. for all our needs.”
What does it cost to turn your favored form of energy into power?
Answer that question and the path forward becomes clear.
If you never ask that question, or never answer it honestly, you get what passes for “energy policy” in the U.S. today.

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