No Such Thing as a Free Lunch, or is There…

One of my key mantras for 2011 will be “there is no such thing as a free lunch” as we the people seem to think there is a free ride to be had out there.  While everyone seems to laugh at the idea of a perpetual motion machine, they however forget Newton’s famous quote “for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction”.   Yes I know in high school science class you filled a pop (soda) bottle with vinegar and added baking soda to make a crude rocket engine, however this axiom also applies to all other things in life not just the explosive ones.

Take for example “corn”, during the oil spike; the American government decided we needed to decrease our dependency on foreign oil so the best bet was to brew our own in the form of ethanol (alcohol).  So what better way to improve our self sufficiency, since we are a farming nation then to take a bunch of corn and turn it into E85 (a gasoline & alcohol hybrid).  Great idea right,   well the corn had to come from somewhere and where was that?  Our “food source” of course, as corn is a major staple of so many of our food products its mind boggling.  So what happened to our food costs as a result of this ‘action”?

All the way from cereal to soft drinks spiked in price as many store shelves’ even ended up bare as without the base ingredient production had to be scaled back.  It’s here the “cause and effect loop” became painfully clear  as there wasn’t only one loop as one might think, the retailers with bare shelves cut staff hours, factories which produced the goods had to idle workers and so on.  Now, one could argue that this also created jobs on the distillery side via construction.  However this would be an argument around false economies as the number one rule is anything which affects food cost affect social effluence in a negative fashion is bad.  Thus the point is the “action” which in this case was the diversion of corn from food to fuel created the an “equal but opposite reaction” in that money spent on rising costs of fuel were then spent on food forming a “zero sum” game.

While keeping on the energy theme, what about wind energy?  Best thing since sliced bread with zero affect right?  Well that’s not they are finding and one interesting piece they are find is that wind farms have the ability to alter local weather!  Mind numbing isn’t it?  Well not really as on one of my drives from Austria to Bratislava it hit me as I stared at the large wind farms on the way they must affect the local climatology by their sheer numbers.   Keep in mind this is almost 5 years ago now and when I shared my ideas on the topic casually, people laughed them off.  However think about it, the energy to move the blades has to come from somewhere.

So here its transferred from the “wind” which loses energy and is passed to the blades as mechanical energy.  Thus the “wind” leaving has less momentum then typical and secondly the blades will disperse or diffuse the air as a result of the exchange.   In short, we have induced local climatic affect into the region.  As a side bar there is also the infra-noise issue which is created by the turning blades as they cut the air which affects people and wild life in the area of the farms too which is yet another issue.

In summary, the problem statement here is not the debate of the nuances of a topic, it is the fact we live in a zero sum world.  As even the First Law of Thermodynamics defines that “energy cannot be created or destroyed”, therefore we can take from a system no more then we put into the same “system”.  Not only is this an axiom for the laboratory, it’s also one for life.