techno paper draft8 - Edward Pierz A39320814 10/11/09 Media...

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Edward Pierz A39320814 10/11/09 Media Journal 3 Our rapidly developing technical society uses vast amounts of resources. The current trend of consumption can be traced back to the industrial revolution. At the start of the industrial revolution global consumption and demand were initially sustainable because of the relatively small population and low, but rising levels of affluence. Since that time the world population has exploded. Environmental degradation is now a tangible threat, and people are demanding solutions. Because industrial capitalism is entrenched in our society it cannot be easily changed. Therefore we must better utilize a concept from classical economics, technological change, to stop rising consumption trends and “fix” for our environment. Recently public sentiment has been less than stellar about the use of fossil fuels and other non renewable resources, and a major focus has been placed on renewable recourses. Most scientist and captains of industry have focused on technologies, some more exotic than others, to mitigate the damages that our lifestyle creates. I chose to specifically focus on the issue of electric motors, in addition to the devices that use them, and the rare earth elements that are used to produce them. These two topics are essential a discourse on efficiency. Energy is a fundamental necessity demanded by society. Energy is required to produce nearly all consumable goods, transportation, heating and cooling, and even the consumption of many goods. Without readily available sources of energy society would grind to a halt. Even the most primitive societies use energy, other than what is required by the human
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body, that they extract from the environment, usual in the form of biomass which is burned for heat energy. The industrial revolution, and the rapid increase in global affluence was made possible by a then newly discovered form of energy, coal. Coal and the combustion engine made it possible to harness energy which was readily available and inexpensive. In time other fossil fuels were harnessed through combustion to power a rapidly expanding society. However, fossil fuels are not renewable resources and burning them is a relatively inefficient, this will be explained at length later, way of extracting energy from the environment. Over the next few centuries fossil fuels growth increased exponentially along with a population and GDP even as their limitations began to show in both ecological and economic terms. Human use of fossil fuels is extremely inefficient because most of the energy stored in the chemical bonds is lost when it is transformed. Thermodynamics can be used to simply explain power generation from combustion. Combustion of fossil fuels is extremely enthalpic, but much of the reaction energy is wasted by creating excess heat with cannot be captured. Even in the most efficient and modern power plants 35% thermodynamic efficiency is considered normal. That means 65% of all the energy released is not converted to usable energy,
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This note was uploaded on 12/14/2009 for the course SOC 452 taught by Professor Harris during the Spring '09 term at Michigan State University.

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techno paper draft8 - Edward Pierz A39320814 10/11/09 Media...

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