Colors of tomorrow: power plant fuelled with enriched geranium
Two ways for mankind
From now on, there are roughly two paths for mankind: either we manage to master fusion energy ... or we don't. Here is a small description of the two alternatives.
A world with fusion energy
Mastering controlled fusion would mean almost free and limitless energy. Fusion is what powers the Sun: two hydrogen nuclei forming an helium one, producing an enormous quantity of heat. All we would need is take some hydrogen from water, and with the end product, we could fill some balloons.
When we manage this, most of our problems end.
You can do whatever you want when energy is almost free. Pumping CO2 out of the atmosphere gets possible. Mining any ressource, growing any crop under any weather. With limitless energy, anything can be done.
No more carbon, gas or nuclear power plants. No more solar plants nor wind turbines.
Fusion is the energetic Holy Grail.
Fusion is the sun in a box. The problem is, we don't know how to build the box.
A world without fusion energy
That one is different. It could be summed up by: "living with less". Oil reserves are depleting, natural gas won't last much longer and even though we still have coal for a few centuries, burning it will heat the planet up to extinction.
Let's have a quick look at our energy mix, for the whole of humanity, given by International Energy Agency in 2019:
- Oil: 32%
- Coal: 27%
- Natural gas: 24%
- Hydroelectricity: 6%
- Nuclear: 4%
- Renewables (including solar, wind, and biomass): 7%
This does not look so good if oil and gas production decline. Coal will still be plentiful, but coal is a pain to dig and transport, compared to oil and gas.
Less energy doesn't only mean lowering the temperature to 19°C indoor in winter. Less energy means less materials, less food, less transports.
Low energy geopolitics
Ok, you're probably going to say that my black stripes are talking again, but I'm not sure that geopolitics will get any nicer if we are forced to cut down on energy, materials, food and transports.
From 1800 to 2020, our energy consumption has risen from 28 000 to 130 000 petajoules (according to IEA again) and I'm not absolutely sure that this enormous amount of energetic wealth, which we turned into material, food and leisure wealth, translated so much into peace, care and solidarity among humans.
While mankind became amazingly rich, if you compare it to the wealth accumulated by zebras over the same period for example, it hardly became any nicer.
Now that the party is getting to the end, I wouldn't be surprised, when we remember the tendency for violence we usually see in primates, if the future of humanity would be more like Mad Max than The Sound of Music.