Why We'll Never Run Out of Energy: Q&A with Science Writer Charles Mann

The acclaimed author in a wide-ranging conversation with the New York Times' John Tierney

"Our species does these amazing things, but we're not very good at governing ourselves," says acclaimed science writer Charles Mann, who is author most recently of 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus. "Every time I feel really optimistic I look at something the government has done and I want to shoot myself."

Mann joined the New York Times' John Tierney for a wide-ranging discussion of government, human ingenuity, energy, agriculture, history, and the environment at an event hosted by the Reason Foundation at New York City's Museum of Sex, which was held on April 24, 2013.

Tierney and Mann discussed why the industrial revolution wouldn't have happened without imported rubber (1:40); why the locavore movement (of which Mann counts himself a member) is a fraud (3:58); how China screwed up its agriculture (8:30); Mann's debate with best-selling writer and agricultural determinist Jared Diamond (16:20); why humans won't exhaust all resources necessary for their survival (as a zebra mussel might) (21:20); how new methods for extracting methane hydrates, which are natural gas molecules trapped under the seafloor, could double existing energy reserves (23:00); and whether he's concerned about the environmental impact of hydraulic fracking (54:33).

About 57 minutes.

Camera by Anthony L. Fisher and Jim Epstein, and edited by Epstein.

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  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    I don't have to watch the video to know that we will never run out of abundant energy sources. Between the easily extractable uranium and thorium reserves here on earth, and the fact that everywhere in the universe this stuff is found, we will always have enough energy.

    The only thing that really stands in the way is government BS.

  • John||

    We have known since relativity that energy and mass were interchangeable. We won't run out of energy until we run out of mass. We might run out of mass that with current technology are easy to convert into energy. But it seems to me that as long as technology advances, we should always be able to extract energy out of something.

  • Tony||

    Except the sun or the wind.

  • John||

    Yeah tony. we all just hate the sun and wind. It has nothing to do with such technology being currently unreliable, inefficient and its mandated use nothing but a ticket to darkness and poverty. Nope, not at all.

  • Marc F Cheney||

    John, you have what must be a congenital compulsion to engage with the disingenuous and the chromosomally-deficient. Must you respond to every asinine comment that these people fart out?

  • John||

    yeah yeah. Although Tony is not shreek. Tony occasionally does make a reasonable point. He is an actual person rather than a sock puppet.

  • Marc F Cheney||

    How about only responding to Tony when he makes a reasonable point? That would be a start.

    Still, the exercise is without merit.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    How's Germany doing these days Tony?

  • Zeb||

    It seems unlikely that there will ever be a way to convert any mass to energy. But there are plenty of fissile materials in the world, and obviously a practically limitless supply of fusion fuel if we ever figure that out. And as long as the Sun keeps going there is a whole lot of energy to be captured there, given the right technology.

  • John||

    Not any mass. But as technology increases our ability to convert more and more kinds of mass into energy at a higher rate of efficiency will go up. For this reason, I can't see us ever running out of energy. At some point, technology will develop that will allow us to convert something really common into energy.

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    We have so much fissile/fertile materials we will NEVER have to worry about any other type of energy production if we choose. Fusion is not even necessary.

    We have something like 10,000 years of energy sitting in already mind U-238 (fertile uranium isotope). We have the tech to use that energy, it is just not cost effective currently due to our huge surplus of easily accessible U-235, and regulatory issues.

  • Pro Libertate||

    I have to strongly object to the headline, "Why We'll Never Run Out of Energy." Has entropy been repealed by Congress or something?

  • Smilin' Joe Fission||

    You obviously haven't read the Entropy Fairness Bill which specifically restricts entropy from increasing past a certain point using already established Anti-Trust laws. Entropy presents a clear danger deriving from its monopolistic tendencies in any open system.

  • Pro Libertate||

    Oh, then objection withdrawn!

  • ||

    Well, define "we". The living persons reading this will never run out of energy. The human species as we know it will probably never run out of energy. The universe will most certainly run out of energy, but it will be on a timescale as to be entirely irrelevant to me personally.

  • Zeb||

    By the time that happens, there will have already been no stars for quite some time, so it seems likely that it will not be relevant to any intelligent being. But you never know what might come along over the next 100 billion years or so.

  • Pro Libertate||

    We may or may not continue in some form for a very long time. Entropy, however, is a little more certain.

  • SQRLSY One||

    Entropy can hurt you only if you believe in it. We Scienfoologists don’t have to believe ANYTHING we don’t want to believe, because we are religiously free!!! To learn more about Scienfoology, see http://www.churchofsqrls.com/ .

  • Monkatron||

    His most recent book is 1493, not 1491.

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