Slow Moving Problems Are Always Solved

Three decades ago, while in the arctic, I happened to have lunch with a well-driller In conversation, it came up that he had drilled in sub-Sharan Africa and claimed that there was no shortage of water there. There was just a problem of availability. Most of it was below 1,000 feet and those wells are very expensive.

Another thing he pointed out was the water was hot when they got it. That second thought came back to mind when I noticed this business Quaise Energy 

Quaise Energy

They intend to drill deep holes, like 20 km deep, more than 60,000 feet, to capture geothermal heat. The goal is to drill deep enough to capture huge amounts of geothermal energy for use on the surface. Think a heat pump on steroids. Their technology is new to me, millimeter drilling, and so may have possibilities. There is no doubt about the energy in the earth, but as always, the capture is difficult.

You may recall the Kola Superdeep Borehole abandoned in Russia in 1989. It began in 1970 and after numerous equipment problems ceased in 1989. It reached more than 12 km, about 40,000 feet. An oil well in Qatar’s Al Shaheen field has since gone a little deeper.

Problems solve by evolution.

I have little doubt the Quaise Energy project is possible and conceivably feasible. There will be some engineering required to make the heat useful as energy. I further expect that drilling techniques and equipment will evolve as more is known. That’s how the “D” part of R&D, development, works. If this ever comes to be, the end result will not look like what we imagine today although we will be able to see how they are connected.

What it means

The company claims the possibility of replacing all other energy sources on Earth by 2050. An ambitious goal to be sure. Possible? I suppose. There is geothermal energy everywhere on earth and the cost of the drilling, while high, will shrink in time and could replace equally or more expensive alternatives.

There are dangers though. Aside from how would you shut it off if you had to, when problems require evolutionary answer, spending vast sums on existing technology for some hazy temporary effect is wasted. Electric transportation has little or no effect on the climate problem if you look at all the pieces.

Even if you believe climate models, ask yourself if this technology is part of their modelling. My guess is not. When you project 80 years and do not include things that don’t yet exist you get foolish answers. It’s hard to imagine what to include though. Prophecy is an uneven skill.

Why urgency fails. A thought from Daniel Kahneman:

(There is a) remarkable asymmetry between the ways our mind treats information that is currently available and information we do not have. An essential design feature of the associative machine is that it represents only activated ideas. Information that is not retrieved (even unconsciously) from memory might as well not exist. System 1 excels at constructing the best possible story that incorporates ideas currently activated, but it does not (cannot) allow for information it does not have.”

The bits to take away

Slow moving problems are always solved. Humans are very resourceful that way. On the other hand, politicians and activists live in a short term world where fear and excitement rule. Their urgent plans usually consume resources better applied to incremental, yet novel solutions.

I doubt the politicians and activists believe their own hysteria about 12 years to repair the problem. You should not either.

Projecting present activities and resources more than a few years usually fails.

The IPCC has projected the outcomes as far ahead as 2100. If the world will end in 12 years, what’s the point of that? While the UN tends to be untrustworthy, I trust their scientists more than Swedish teenagers and other hucksters.


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I build strategic, fact-based estate and income plans. The plans identify alternate ways to achieve spending and estate distribution goals. In the past, I have been a planner with a large insurance, employee benefits, and investment agency, a partner in a large international public accounting firm, CEO of a software start-up, a partner in an energy management system importer, and briefly in the restaurant business. I have appeared on more than 100 television shows on financial planning have presented to organizations as varied as the Canadian Bar Association, The Ontario Institute of Chartered Accountants, The Ontario Ministry of Agriculture and Food, and Banks – from CIBC to the Business Development Bank.

Be in touch at 705-927-4770 or by email at don@moneyfyi.com

 

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