How We Keep the Tarsands in the Ground

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solar power ibm
NOT actually science-fiction.

In your science-fiction news today:

Imagine a power system that could harness the energy of 2,000 suns and provide fresh water and air conditioning in remote locations.

Not only that but it would be completely renewable, be able to provide the entire world’s energy supplies and only take up two per cent of the Sahara Desert’s land area.

via IBM’s New Solar Collector Power System (HCPVT) Could Power The Earth.

But it’s not actually science-fiction.

I recall debates with friends in the 1980s who went on and on about how technology will save us from the greenhouse effect. Don’t worry, human ingenuity will solve everything!

I thought that was somewhat naive. We should be prudent and alter our relationship with carbon to stop the climate breakdown.

But maybe it was my error. Maybe technology could save us. Maybe continued exploration into solar energy would pay off. Maybe the oil companies didn’t cynically buy up all the solar power patents in the 1970s to shut down alternatives to our carbon energy infrastructure.

Maybe we could keep building better solar energy collection systems and combine them with mirrors to focus the heat of the sun to desalinate water too.

And maybe we could do it on a scale that [cue: mad scientist laughter…] would SOLVE THE GLOBAL ENERGY CRISIS AND MOVE US TO MY BELOVED POST-CARBON ENERGY INFRASTRUCTURE [echo echo echo].

So it turns out this isn’t so much a maybe.

And it turns out, that despite science being illegal in the Canada of our inadequate employee, Mr. Stephen Harper, two science-y people can pretty clearly let you know that this is more than just truthiness in these video clips below.

And if we can use this technology, we can leave the tarsands in the ground, stop the pipelines and tanker raffic, dismantle the nuclear power plants and oil and LNG refineries, leave the coal and natural gas in the ground, put some work into cleaning up the tailing ponds and toxic geography that comes from carbon energy development, and not risk our water supplies with fracking. Sounds worth it to me!


If you can put on your open mindedness hat for a few minutes watch these two fellows explain what we’re dealing with here, then we can move on to developing the political space to transform to our post-carbon energy infrastructure:

1. Craig Shields discusses the pros and cons

2. Bruno Shields, from IBM, talking about their solar project

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Stephen Elliott-Buckley

Post-partisan eco-socialist. at Politics, Re-Spun
Stephen Elliott-Buckley is a husband, father, professor, speaker, consultant, former suburban Vancouver high school English and Social Studies teacher who changed careers because the BC Liberal Party has been working hard to ruin public education. He has various English and Political Science degrees and has been writing political, social and economic editorials since November 2002. Stephen is in Twitter, Miro and iTunes, and the email thing, and at his website,

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