Thursday, July 30, 2009

What would have to happen for energy not to be a bigger and bigger focal point in our lives? The world’s population continues to grow, now projected to hit 9 billion by 2050. (It sometimes seems like the bulk of this commutes in from Short Pump on many weekdays.) The standard of living expectations for more and more of us continue to go higher. If residents of developing nations have access to "CSI: Fort Wayne, Indiana" showing improved living conditions around the world, why shouldn’t they also aspire to this quality of life? (Where’s my roomy family sedan to park in my two-car garage next to my oversized house in the suburbs with big-screen TV located 35 miles from my place of work?)

That’s just the demand side of the equation, what about the supply? The primary sources of power used by residents of Planet Earth are fossil fuels. Aptly named, these energy sources have a finite supply that is based — in large part — on stuff that died several hundred million years ago. At some point, we will inevitably run out of these carbon-based fuels; we can argue over when, but there is no argument over if.

So, more people clamoring for more energy and less of it to go around. What do we do? Panic? Of course not, it’s science time. Right here at the Science Museum of Virginia, we have wonderful examples of part of the solution to the problems, such as:
· A sleek, smartly designed and very upscale solar house developed by Virginia Tech in our parking lot. (I can speak from personal experience as to how cool the house is, since I lived in it for my first two months on the job.)
· A real working windmill
· A geothermal system
· Several types of photovoltaic cells that collect energy from your favorite K class star
Stay tuned. As this issue becomes a bigger part of our lives, we will be expanding on our interpretation of it at the museum.