ANSWERS FOR FUELING THE FUTURE

     

FREEDOM! I stand in a cluttered room surrounded by the debris of electrical enthusiasm: wire peelings, snippets of copper, yellow connectors, insulated pliers. For me these are the tools of freedom. I have just installed a dozen solar panels on my roof, & they work. A meter shows that 1,285 watts of power nguồn are blasting straight from the sun into my system, charging my batteries, cooling my refrigerator, humming through my computer, liberating my life.

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The euphoria of energy freedom is addictive. Don"t get me wrong; I love fossil fuels. I live on an island that happens to have no utilities, but otherwise my wife and I have a normal American life. We don"t want propane refrigerators, kerosene lamps, or composting toilets. We want a lot of electrical outlets and a cappuccino maker. But when I turn on those panels, wow!

Maybe that"s because for me, as for most Americans, one energy crisis or another has shadowed most of the past three decades. From the OPEC crunch of the 1970s to the skyrocketing cost of oil & gasoline today, the world"s concern over energy has haunted presidential speeches, congressional campaigns, disaster books, & my own sense of well-being with the same kind of gnawing unease that characterized the Cold War.

As National Geographic reported in June 2004, oil, no longer cheap, may soon decline. Instability where most oil is found, from the Persian Gulf to lớn Nigeria to Venezuela, makes this lifeline fragile. Natural gas can be hard to lớn transport & is prone to shortages. We won"t run out of coal anytime soon, or the largely untapped deposits of tar sands và oil shale. But it"s clear that the carbon dioxide spewed by coal and other fossil fuels is warming the planet, as this magazine reported last September.


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Cutting loose from that worry is enticing. With my new panels, nothing stands between me & limitless energy—no foreign nation, no nguồn company, no carbon-emission guilt. I"m free!

Well, almost. Here comes a cloud.

Shade steals across my panels và over my heart. The meter shows only 120 watts. I"m going lớn have khổng lồ start the generator và burn some more gasoline. This isn"t going to lớn be easy after all.

The trouble with energy freedom is that it"s addictive; when you get a little, you want a lot. In microcosm I"m lượt thích people in government, industry, và private life all over the world, who have tasted a bit of this curious & compelling kind of liberty & are determined to find more.

Some experts think this pursuit is even more important than the war on terrorism. "Terrorism doesn"t threaten the viability of the heart of our high-technology lifestyle," says Martin Hoffert, a professor of physics at thành phố new york University. "But energy really does."

Energy conservation can stave off the day of reckoning, but in the kết thúc you can"t conserve what you don"t have. So Hoffert and others have no doubt: It"s time lớn step up the search for the next great fuel for the hungry engine of humankind.

Is there such a fuel? The short answer is no. Experts say it lượt thích a mantra: "There is no silver bullet." Though a few true believers claim that only vast conspiracies or lack of funds stand between us & endless energy from the vacuum of space or the chip core of the Earth, the truth is that there"s no single great new fuel waiting in the heart of an equation or at the end of a drill bit.

Enthusiasm about hydrogen-fueled cars may give the wrong impression. Hydrogen is not a source of energy. It"s found along with oxygen in plain old water, but it isn"t there for the taking. Hydrogen has khổng lồ be freed before it is useful, & that costs more energy than the hydrogen gives back. These days, this energy comes mostly from fossil fuels. No silver bullet there.

The long answer about our next fuel is not so grim, however. In fact, plenty of contenders for the energy crown now held by fossil fuels are already at hand: wind, solar, even nuclear, to name a few. But the successor will have khổng lồ be a congress, not a king. Virtually every energy expert I met did something unexpected: He pushed not just his own specialty but everyone else"s too.

"We"re going to lớn need everything we can get from biomass, everything we can get from solar, everything we can get from wind," says Michael Pacheco, director of the National Bioenergy Center, part of the National Renewable Energy Laboratories (NREL) in Golden, Colorado. "And still the question is, can we get enough?"

The big problem is big numbers. The world uses some 320 billion kilowatt-hours of energy a day. It"s equal lớn about 22 bulbs burning nonstop for every person on the planet. No wonder the sparkle is seen from space. Hoffert"s team estimates that within the next century humanity could use three times that much. Fossil fuels have met the growing demand because they pack millions of years of the sun"s energy into a compact form, but we will not find their lượt thích again.

Fired up by my taste of energy freedom, I went looking for technologies that can address those numbers. "If you have a big problem, you must give a big answer," says a genial energy guru named Hermann Scheer, a member of the German parliament. "Otherwise people don"t believe."

The answers are out there. But they all require one more thing of us humans who huddle around the fossil fuel fire: We"re going to lớn have to make a big leap—toward a different kind of world.

Solar: miễn phí Energy, at a Price

On a cloudy day near the đô thị of Leipzig in the former East Germany, I walked across a field of fresh grass, past a pond where wild swans fed. The field was also sown with 33,500 photovoltaic panels, planted in rows like silver flowers all turned sunward, undulating gently across the contours of the land. It"s one of the largest solar arrays ever. When the sun emerges, the field produces up lớn five megawatts of power, and it averages enough for 1,800 homes.

Nearby are gaping pits where coal was mined for generations khổng lồ feed nguồn plants và factories. The skies used to be brown with smoke & acrid with sulfur. Now the mines are being turned into lakes, và power that once came from coal is made in a furnace 93 million miles (150 million kilometers) away.

Solar electric systems catch energy directly from the sun—no fire, no emissions. Some labs & companies are trying out the grown-up version of a child"s magnifying glass: giant mirrored bowls or troughs to lớn concentrate the sun"s rays, producing heat that can drive a generator. But for now, sun nguồn mostly means solar cells.

The idea is simple: Sunlight falling on a layer of semiconductor jostles electrons, creating a current. Yet the cost of the cells, once astronomical, is still high. My modest system cost over $15,000 (U.S.), about $10 a watt of capacity, including batteries lớn store nguồn for when the sun doesn"t shine.

Like most things electronic, solar nguồn has been getting cheaper. "Thirty years ago it was cost effective on satellites," says Daniel Shugar, president of PowerLight Corporation, a fast-growing California company that has built solar installations for clients including Toyota và Target. "Today it can be cost-effective for powering houses and businesses," at least where utility power is expensive or unavailable. Tomorrow, he says, it will make sense for almost everyone.

Martin Roscheisen, CEO of a company called Nanosolar, sees that future in a phối of red-topped vials, filled with tiny particles of semiconductor. "I put some of that on my finger, and it disappeared right into my skin," he says. He won"t say exactly what the particles are, but the "nano" in the company name is a hint: They are less than a hundred nanometers across—about the kích cỡ of a virus, & so small they slip right through skin.

Roscheisen believes those particles promise a low-cost way khổng lồ create solar cells. Instead of making the cells from slabs of silicon, his company will paint the particles onto a foil-like material, where they will self-assemble to create a semiconductor surface. The result: a flexible solar-cell material 50 times thinner than today"s solar panels. Roscheisen hopes lớn sell it in sheets, for about 50 cents a watt.

"Fifty cents a watt is kind of the holy grail," says David Pearce, president and CEO of Miasolé, one of many other companies working on "thin-film" solar cells. At that price solar could compete with utilities and might take off. If prices continued to lớn drop, solar cells might change the whole idea of energy by making it cheap & easy for individuals to lớn gather for themselves. That"s what techies hotline a "disruptive technology."

"Automobiles were disruptive lớn the horse và buggy business," Dan Shugar says. "PCs were disruptive khổng lồ the typewriter industry. We believe solar electric systems will be disruptive to lớn the energy industry."

Yet price isn"t the only hurdle solar faces. There are the small matters of clouds & darkness, which điện thoại tư vấn for better ways of storing energy than the bulky lead-acid batteries in my system. But even if those hurdles are overcome, can solar really make the big energy we need?

With solar now providing less than one percent of the world"s energy, that would take "a massive (but not insurmountable) scale-up," NYU"s Hoffert và his colleagues said in an article in Science. At present levels of efficiency, it would take about 10,000 square miles (25,900 square kilometers) of solar panels—an area bigger than Vermont—to satisfy all of the United States" electricity needs. But the land requirement sounds more daunting than it is: mở cửa country wouldn"t have khổng lồ be covered. All those panels could fit on less than a quarter of the roof and pavement space in cities và suburbs.

Wind: Feast or Famine

Wind, ultimately driven by sun-warmed air, is just another way of collecting solar energy, but it works on cloudy days. One afternoon I stood in a field near Denmark"s west coast under a sky so dark and heavy it would have put my own solar panels into a coma. But right above me clean power nguồn was being cranked out by the megawatt. A blade longer than an airplane wing turned slowly in a strong south breeze. It was a wind turbine.

The turbine"s lazy sweep was misleading. Each time one of the three 130-foot (40-meter) blades swung past, it hissed as it sliced the air. Tip speed can be well over 100 miles (161 kilometers) an hour. This single tower was capable of producing two megawatts, almost half the entire đầu ra of the Leipzig solar farm.

In Denmark, turning blades are always on the horizon, in small or large groups, lượt thích spokes of wheels rolling toward a strange new world. Denmark"s total installed wind nguồn is now more than 3,000 megawatts—about trăng tròn percent of the nation"s electrical needs. All over Europe generous incentives designed khổng lồ reduce carbon emissions và wean economies from oil và coal have led khổng lồ a wind boom. The continent leads the world in wind power, with almost 35,000 megawatts, equivalent lớn 35 large coal-fired nguồn plants. North America, even though it has huge potential for wind energy, remains a distant second, with just over 7,000 megawatts. With the exception of hydroelectric power—which has been driving machines for centuries but has little room lớn grow in developed countries—wind is currently the biggest success story in renewable energy.

"When I started in 1987, I spent a lot of time sitting in farmers" houses until midnight talking to lớn the neighbors, just selling one turbine," says Hans Buus. He"s director of project development for a Danish energy company called Elsam. "I would not have been able lớn imagine the level it is today."

He means not only the number of turbines but also their sheer size. In Germany I saw a fiberglass-and-steel prototype that stands 600 feet (183 meters) tall, has blades 200 feet (61 meters) long, và can generate five megawatts. It"s not just a monument lớn engineering but also an effort lớn overcome some new obstacles lớn wind nguồn development.

One is aesthetic. England"s Lake District is a spectacular landscape of bracken-clad hills and secluded valleys, mostly protected as a national park. But on a ridge just outside the park, though not outside the magnificence, 27 towers are planned, each as big as the two-megawatt machine in Denmark. Many locals are protesting. "This is a high-quality landscape," says one. "They shouldn"t be putting those things in here."

Danes seem to like turbines more than the British, perhaps because many Danish turbines belong to cooperatives of local residents. It"s harder khổng lồ say "not in my backyard" if the thing in your backyard helps pay for your house. But environmental opposition is not the only trouble facing wind development. Across Europe many of the windiest sites are already occupied. So the five-megawatt German machine is designed lớn help take wind nguồn away from the scenery & out to lớn abundant new sites at sea.

Many coastlines have broad areas of shallow continental shelf where the wind blows more steadily than on land & where, as one wind expert puts it, "the seagulls don"t vote." (Real voters, however, sometimes still object to the sight of towers on the horizon.) It costs more to build & maintain turbines offshore than on land, but an underwater foundation for a five-megawatt tower is cheaper per megawatt than a smaller foundation. Hence the German giant.

There are other challenges. Lượt thích sailboats, wind turbines can be calmed for days. To lớn keep the grid humming, other sources, such as coal-fired power nguồn plants, have to stand ready to lớn take up the slack. But when a strong wind dumps power into the grid, the other generators have to be turned down, and plants that burn fuel are not quickly adjustable. A wind-power bonanza can become a glut. Denmark, for example, is sometimes forced to lớn unload nguồn at uneconomic rates to lớn neighbors lượt thích Norway and Germany.

What"s needed for wind as well as solar is a way to store a large energy surplus. Giải pháp công nghệ already exists to lớn turn it into fuels such as hydrogen or ethanol or harness it lớn compress air or spin flywheels, banking energy that can later churn out electricity. But most systems are still decades from becoming economically feasible.

On the plus side, both wind & solar can provide what"s called distributed energy: They can make nguồn on a small scale near the user. You can"t have a private coal plant, but you can have your own windmill, with batteries for calm days. The more houses or communities make their own wind power, the smaller & cheaper central power plants & transmission lines can be.

In Europe"s big push toward wind power, the turbines keep growing. But in Flagstaff, Arizona, Southwest Windpower makes turbines with blades you can pick up in one hand. The company has sold about 60,000 of the little turbines, most of them for off-grid homes, sailboats, và remote sites lượt thích lighthouses và weather stations. At 400 watts apiece they can"t power more than a few lights.

But David Galley, Southwest"s president, whose father built his first wind turbine out of washing machine parts, is testing a new sản phẩm he calls an energy appliance. It will stand on a tower as tall as a telephone pole, produce up lớn two kilowatts in a moderate wind, and come with all the electronics needed lớn plug it into the house.

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Many U.S. Utilities are required lớn pay for power that individuals put back into the grid, so anyone in a relatively breezy place could pop up the energy appliance in the yard, use the nguồn when it"s needed, & feed it back into the grid when it"s not. Except for the heavy loads of heating và air-conditioning, this setup could reduce a home"s annual nguồn bill lớn near zero. If, as Galley hopes, he can ultimately sell the energy appliance for under $3,000, it would pay for itself with energy savings within a few years.

Somewhere in this phối of the grand & the personal, there may be big numbers in wind too.

Biomass: Farming Your Fuel

In Germany, driving from the giant wind turbine near Hamburg khổng lồ Berlin, I regularly got an odd whiff: the sort-of-appetizing scent of fast food. It was a puzzle until a tanker truck passed, emblazoned with the word "biodiesel." The scent was of burning vegetable oil. Germany uses about 450 million gallons (1.7 billion liters) of biodiesel a year, about 3 percent of its total diesel consumption.

Biomass energy has ancient roots. The logs in your fire are biomass. But today biomass means ethanol, biogas, và biodiesel—fuels as easy khổng lồ burn as oil or gas, but made from plants. These technologies are proven. Ethanol produced from corn goes into gasoline blends in the U.S.; ethanol from sugarcane provides 50 percent of automobile fuel in Brazil. In the U.S. And other nations, biodiesel from vegetable oil is burned, pure or mixed with regular diesel, in unmodified engines. "Biofuels are the easiest fuels to slot into the existing fuel system," says Michael Pacheco, the National Bioenergy Center director.

What limits biomass is land. Photosynthesis, the process that captures the sun"s energy in plants, is far less efficient per square foot than solar panels, so catching energy in plants gobbles up even more land. Estimates suggest that powering all the world"s vehicles with biofuels would mean doubling the amount of land devoted to farming.

At the National Bioenergy Center, scientists are trying khổng lồ make fuel-farming more efficient. Today"s biomass fuels are based on plant starches, oils, và sugars, but the center is testing organisms that can digest woody cellulose, abundant in plants, so that it too could yield liquid fuel. More productive fuel crops could help as well.

One is switchgrass, a plant native lớn North America"s prairies that grows faster và needs less fertilizer than corn, the source of most ethanol fuel made in the U.S. It also thrives on land unfit for other crops & does double duty as a source of animal food, further reducing the pressure on farmland.

"Preliminary results look promising," says Thomas Foust, the center"s giải pháp công nghệ manager. "If you increase automobile efficiency lớn the level of a hybrid & go with the switchgrass crop mix, you could meet two-thirds of the U.S. Transportation fuel demand with no additional land."

But technically possible doesn"t mean politically feasible. From corn lớn sugarcane, all crops have their own lobbyists. "We"re looking down a lot of alleys," says Pacheco. "And every alley has its own vested interest group. Frankly, one of the biggest challenges with biomass is that there are so many options."

Nuclear: Still a Contender

Nuclear fission appeared to lớn lead the race as an energy alternative decades ago, as countries began building reactors. Worldwide, about 440 plants now generate 16 percent of the planet"s electric power, and some countries have gone heavily nuclear. France, for instance, gets 78 percent of its electricity from fission.

The allure is clear: abundant power, no carbon dioxide emissions, no blots on the landscape except an occasional containment dome and cooling tower. But along with its familiar woes—the accidents at Three Mile Island & Chornobyl, poor economics compared with fossil fuel plants, & the challenge of radioactive waste disposal—nuclear nguồn is far from renewable. The readily available uranium fuel won"t last much more than 50 years.

Yet enthusiasm is reviving. China, facing a shortage of electric power, has started khổng lồ build new reactors at a brisk pace—one or two a year. In the U.S., where some hydrogen-car boosters see nuclear plants as a good source of energy for making hydrogen from water, Vice President Dick Cheney has called for "a fresh look" at nuclear. And Japan, which lacks its own oil, gas, & coal, continues to lớn encourage a fission program. Yumi Akimoto, a Japanese elder statesman of nuclear chemistry, saw the flash of the bomb at Hiroshima as a boy yet describes nuclear fission as "the pillar of the next century."

In the town of Rokkasho at the northernmost tip of Honshu Island, japan is working to lớn get around the limits of the uranium supply. Inside a new 20-billion-U.S.-dollar complex, workers wear pale blue work suits and an air of patient haste. I looked in on cylindrical centrifuges for enriching uranium and a pool partly filled with rods of spent nuclear fuel, cooling. Spent fuel is rich in plutonium and leftover uranium—valuable nuclear material that the plant is designed to lớn salvage. It will "reprocess" the spent fuel into a mixture of enriched uranium và plutonium called MOX, for mixed oxide fuel. MOX can be burned in some modern reactors và could stretch the fuel supply for decades or more.

Reprocessing plants in other countries also turn spent fuel into MOX. But those plants originally made plutonium for nuclear weapons, so the Japanese like to say that theirs, due to lớn start up in 2007, is the first such plant built entirely for peaceful use. Khổng lồ assure the world that it will stay that way, the Rokkasho complex includes a building for inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency, the United Nations" nuclear watchdog, who will make certain that none of the plutonium is diverted for weapons.

That doesn"t satisfy nuclear energy opponents. Opposition has mounted in nhật bản after fatal accidents at the country"s nuclear plants, including one that killed two workers & exposed others lớn radiation. Shortly after my visit to lớn Rokkasho, about a hundred protesters marched outside the plant in a blizzard.

A bigger controversy would greet what some nuclear proponents think is a crucial next step: a move to breeder reactors. Breeders can make more fuel than they consume, in the form of plutonium that can be extracted by reprocessing the spent fuel. But experimental breeder reactors have proved to be temperamental, and a full-scale breeder program could be an arms-control nightmare because of all the plutonium it would put in circulation.

Akimoto, for one, believes that society has to lớn get comfortable with fuel reprocessing if it wants lớn count on nuclear energy. He spoke to lớn me through an interpreter, but lớn emphasize this point he jumped into English: "If we are going to accept nuclear power, we have khổng lồ accept the total system. Sometimes we want lớn get the first crop of fruit but forget how to grow the trees."

Fusion: The Fire Some Time

Fusion is the gaudiest of hopes, the fire of the stars in the human hearth. Produced when two atoms fuse into one, fusion energy could satisfy huge chunks of future demand. The fuel would last millennia. Fusion would produce no long-lived radioactive waste and nothing for terrorists or governments to lớn turn into weapons. It also requires some of the most complex machinery on Earth.

A few scientists have claimed that cold fusion, which promises energy from a simple jar instead of a high-tech crucible, might work. The verdict so far: No such luck. Hot fusion is more likely to succeed, but it will be a decades-long quest costing billions of dollars.

Hot fusion is tough because the fuel—a kind of hydrogen—has to be heated to 180 million degrees Fahrenheit (100 million degrees Celsius) or so before the atoms start fusing. At those temperatures the hydrogen forms a roiling, unruly vapor of electrically charged particles, called plasma. "Plasma is the most common state of matter in the universe," says one physicist, "but it"s also the most chaotic & the least easily controlled." Creating & containing plasma is so challenging that no fusion experiment has yet returned more than 65 percent of the energy it took to start the reaction.

Now scientists in Europe, Japan, và the U.S. Are refining the process, learning better ways khổng lồ control plasma and trying to lớn push up the energy output. They hope that a six-billion-U.S.-dollar kiểm tra reactor called ITER will get the fusion bonfire blazing—what physicists điện thoại tư vấn "igniting the plasma." The next step would be a demonstration plant khổng lồ actually generate power, followed by commercial plants in 50 years or so.

"I am 100 percent sure we can ignite the plasma," says Jerome Pamela, the project manager of a fusion machine called the Joint European Torus, or JET, at Britain"s Culham Science Center. "The biggest challenge is the transition between the plasma & the outside world." He means finding the right materials for the lining of the ITER plasma chamber, where they will have khổng lồ withstand a bombardment of neutrons & transfer heat khổng lồ electric generators.

At Culham I saw an experiment in a tokamak, a device that cages plasma in a magnetic field shaped lượt thích a doughnut—the standard kiến thiết for most fusion efforts, including ITER. The physicists sent a huge electrical charge into the gas-filled container, a scaled-down version of JET. It raised the temperature to lớn about ten million degrees Celsius, not enough to start fusion but enough to create plasma.

The experiment lasted a quarter of a second. A video clip camera shooting 2,250 frames a second captured it. As it played back, a faint glow blossomed in the chamber, wavered, grew into a haze visible only on its cooling edges, & vanished.

It was—well, disappointing. I had expected the plasma to lớn look lượt thích a movie shot of an exploding automobile. This was more lượt thích a ghost in an English paneled library.

But this phantom was energy incarnate: the universal but elusive magic that all our varied technologies—solar, wind, biomass, fission, fusion, & many others large or small, mainstream or crazy—seek lớn wrestle into our service.

Taming that ghost is not just a scientific challenge. The ITER project has been held up by a seemingly simple problem. Since 2003 the participating countries—including much of the developed world—have been deadlocked over where to build the machine. The choice has come down to two sites, one in France and one in Japan.

As all energy experts will tell you, this proves a well-established theory. There"s only one force tougher khổng lồ manage than plasma: politics.

Although some politicians believe the task of developing the new energy technologies should be left to lớn market forces, many experts disagree. That"s not just because it"s expensive lớn get new technology started, but also because government can often take risks that private enterprise won"t.

"Most of the modern giải pháp công nghệ that has been driving the U.S. Economy did not come spontaneously from market forces," NYU"s Martin Hoffert says, ticking off jet planes, satellite communications, integrated circuits, computers. "The mạng internet was supported for 20 years by the military & for 10 more years by the National Science Foundation before Wall Street found it."

Without a big push from government, he says, we may be condemned to rely on increasingly dirty fossil fuels as cleaner ones lượt thích oil and gas run out, with dire consequences for the climate. "If we don"t have a proactive energy policy," he says, "we"ll just wind up using coal, then shale, then tar sands, and it will be a continually diminishing return, & eventually our civilization will collapse. But it doesn"t have to end that way. We have a choice."

It"s a matter of self-interest, says Hermann Scheer, the German thành viên of parliament. "I don"t appeal to lớn the people khổng lồ change their conscience," he said in his Berlin office, where a small model of a wind turbine turned lazily in a window. "You can"t go around like a priest." Instead, his message is that nurturing new forms of energy is necessary for an environmentally & economically sound future. "There is no alternative."

Already, change is rising from the grass roots. In the U.S., state và local governments are pushing alternative energies by offering subsidies và requiring that utility companies include renewable sources in their plans. And in Europe financial incentives for both wind and solar energy have broad support even though they raise electric bills.

Alternative energy is also catching on in parts of the developing world where it"s a necessity, not a choice. Solar power, for example, is making inroads in African communities lacking nguồn lines and generators. "If you want to overcome poverty, what vì people need khổng lồ focus on?" asks Germany"s environment minister, Jiirgen Trittin. "They need fresh water và they need energy. For filling the needs of remote villages, renewable energy is highly competitive."

In developed countries there"s a sense that alternative energy—once seen as a quaint hippie enthusiasm—is no longer alternative culture. It"s edging into the mainstream. The excitement of energy freedom seems contagious.

One afternoon last year, near a village north of Munich, a small group of townspeople và workers inaugurated a solar facility. It would soon surpass the Leipzig field as the largest in the world, with six megawatts of power.

About 15 people gathered on a little manmade hill beside the solar farm and planted four cherry trees on the summit. The mayor of the tidy nearby town brought out souvenir bottles of schnapps. Almost everyone had a swig, including the mayor.

Then he said he would sing to the project"s construction supervisor và a landscape artist, both American women. The two women stood together, grinning, with the field of solar panels soaking up energy behind them. The German mayor straightened his dark suit, & the other men leaned on their shovels.

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Fifty years ago, I thought, there were still bombed-out ruins in the cities of Europe. The Soviet Union was planning Sputnik. Texas oil was $2.82 U.S. A barrel. At the most, we have 50 years to lớn make the world over again. But people change, adapt, and make crazy new stuff work. I thought about Dan Shugar talking about disruptive technologies. "There"s a sense of excitement," he had said. "There"s a sense of urgency. There"s a sense that we cannot fail."

On the hilltop, the mayor took a deep breath. He sang, in a booming tenor, without missing a chú ý or a word, the entire tuy vậy "O Sole Mio." Everyone cheered.