A Salute to Engines and Electricity


Earth Day should Celebrate “Engines and Electricity”.

Most chapters of human history are defined by the tools and machines that were used.

In the Stone Age, the first tools were “green tools” – digging sticks, spears, boomerangs, bows and arrows made of wood; and axes, clubs, knives and grinders made of stone. These were all powered by human energy.

Then humans learned how to control fire for warmth, cooking, warfare and hunting.

Image acknowledgement:
Steve Hunter http://stevehunterillustrations.com.au/political-cartoons/

Another clever person invented the wheel and we harnessed animal power using donkeys, horses, mules and oxen, and made better tools like bridles, saddles and yokes from wood, fibre and leather.

All of these tools made hunting, gathering and trade easier and more reliable.

Then wooden ploughs revolutionised the cultivation of wild grasses for food for animals and humans. Farming started.

Image acknowledgement: www.pixabay.com

Trade and exchange was made easier with money using rare commodities like gold, silver, gems and shells.

Image acknowledgement: www.pixabay.com

Tool-making made a huge advance in the Bronze Age with the discovery of how to extract metals like copper, lead, zinc and tin from natural ores using charcoal. Brass, bronze and pewter made many useful tools. These were then replaced with better tools when man discovered how to smelt iron and make steel.

Then along came the game-changers – engines and electricity.

The steam engine, running on wood and then on coal or oil, revolutionised life with steam-driven pumps, traction engines and locomotives releasing millions of draught animals from transport duty.

Image acknowledgement: www.pixabay.com

Then came electricity when steam engines were used to drive generators. All the windmills, coaches, sailing ships, lamps, stoves and dryers powered by green energy (wind, water, wood, animal energy, whale oil and beeswax) became obsolete.

Image acknowledgement: www.pixabay.com

Mankind made another leap forward with the invention of internal combustion engines using petroleum liquids and gases for fuel.

An even bigger leap was the harnessing of nuclear power to produce almost unlimited clean energy from controlled reactions using tiny amounts of fuel.

Image acknowledgement:
Steve Hunter http://stevehunterillustrations.com.au/political-cartoons/

Nothing in life is without risk, and every tool or engine can be misused. On balance, however, tools, engines and electricity have allowed humans to live better from less land and natural resources per person than ever before. Societies with an abundance of capital equipment are richer, have lower population growth and have the leisure and resources to provide far more environmental protection.

Therefore we should spend “Earth Day” celebrating “Engines and Electricity”.

Further Reading:

Earth Day Failed Forecasts of Doom:
https://wattsupwiththat.com/2018/04/21/18-examples-of-the-spectacularly-wrong-predictions-made-around-the-first-earth-day-in-1970/comment-page-1/#comment-2796352

Image acknowledgement:
Steve Hunter http://stevehunterillustrations.com.au/political-cartoons/

George Carlin on Saving the Planet:
https://youtu.be/p5Miv4NHsDo

Viv Forbes

24 May 18
http://www.carbon-sense.com

We welcome comments. If you would like to comment on anything in this newsletter go to:
https://carbon-sense.com/2018/05/23/engines-and-electricity/

PDF version: http://carbon-sense.com/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/engines-and-electricity.pdf [PDF, 670 kB]


“Carbon Sense” is an independent newsletter produced for the Carbon Sense Coalition, an Australian based organisation which opposes waste of resources, opposes pollution, opposes the baseless war on carbon fuels and promotes the rational un-subsidised use of all energy resources including coal, oil, gas, hydro, nuclear, wind, solar and geo-thermal.

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1 Comment(s)

  1. Comment by Helen on May 27, 2018 4:21 pm

    There are two comments that I would like to make.
    1) The World is grossly over-populated! We need to control the Earth’s population so that our dwindling resources are not all used up –FAST! Recycling helps.The Earth is a closed system – we cannot hope to survive as the Human Race if we keep using up our natural resources – then burying them in land-fill!
    2) Renewable energy (Solar & Wind power) is not reliable for Base Load Power. A shortage of Base Load Power harms Australian Industry and sends our manufacturing jobs off-shore – to countries that don’t rely on sun and wind for THEIR electricity. AND – in the end, WE are still consuming goods that coal has been instrumental in building, even though they originate in other countries.
    The Mining, Smelting and Manufacturing Industries requires a LOT of reliable electricity –24/7! Down-time because of a shortage of electricity is extremely expensive to industry —– and costs jobs. Electricity being unavailable for even short periods of time causes HUGE problems – as the people of Adelaide can attest to!
    Hydro Electricity is preferable as a clean energy source – WHERE available. Building more dams with Hydro generating capacity would help with water security AND help fill our power needs. Nuclear Power should also be considered in the mix for Australia. Many countries rely on it for reliable availability of electricity. Australia is a Geologically stable country, we have the necessary fuel at our fingertips and vast wasteland where safe ‘spent’ fuel disposal facilities could be built. In the meantime we should consider coal to be a valuable resource that needs to be protected. In the short term it is the only power generating source that can meet our needs.

    In the final analysis – Controlling the Earth’s ‘population explosion’ is the only way that our planet can be saved into the future.

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