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Within 25 years we must abandon oil, gas and coal and rely mainly on sun and wind, otherwise humanity will face collapse

This is what Nobel laureate Prof. Walter Cohen, laureate of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for 1998, says at the event on the occasion of receiving an honorary doctorate in Bar-Ilan in May 2009 * According to him, Israel must return to leading in the field of solar energy as it did decades ago

Walter Kuhn receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford. From Wikipedia
Walter Kuhn receiving an honorary doctorate from the University of Oxford. From Wikipedia
Oil and natural gas resources are about to pass their peak production capacity within seven years, and must switch to renewable energies, not as a marginal factor as it is done today, but as humanity's main sources of energy. This is what Prof. Walter Cohen, winner of the 1998 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, warned in a lecture he gave at Bar-Ilan University on the occasion of receiving an honorary doctorate. The event took place in May but the news is published here for the first time.

Today we are talking about one percent of the energy that is currently provided by wind and sun, when 35% of the energy that drives the wheels of the global economy comes from burning oil, 25% from natural gas, 25% from burning coal, and among the other types of energy - the most prominent of which is
nuclear energy. Solar energy and the utilization of wind energy constitute barely one percent of each type of energy.

Cohen examined the alternatives to oil and gas and explained why they are not suitable or, alternatively, cannot grow at the rate necessary to take the place of oil and gas. Coal is rejected as it is more problematic in terms of pollution and carbon emissions. This is due to its relatively low efficiency. Another alternative is the nuclear alternative and it is also problematic because it creates an environmental risk in the event of a malfunction and even without a malfunction, it is very difficult to get rid of the nuclear waste.

"There are other good and green sources such as biofuel, but they will not become a serious player. Initially, they believed that sugar and corn would become a substitute for oil, the problem is that they compete for space and water with the food crops, which caused food to become more expensive and poverty to worsen.

"We are one of the leading universities in Israel and we don't need to explain to you that there is a consensus that we suffer from two problems at the same time - the depletion of oil and natural gas reserves and the warming of the earth as a result of carbon emissions. Oil production peaked in the US in the XNUMXs. Today we have dropped to half of the output of that time. Other oil producers such as Saudi Arabia have also already passed the peak, and even if we take advantage of Canada's oil fields, we still won't be able to reach the yields of that time.

35% of global energy consumption comes from oil, 25% from coal and another 25% from natural gas. Nuclear energy makes up a few percent, and the alternative energies even less.

We therefore see that 60% of the energy consumed in the world comes from oil and natural gas, when even in all the countries that have not yet reached this peak, oil production and then natural gas production will reach a peak within 20 years or so. Apparently there is a supply of coal until the year 2100, but if it becomes the main source of energy in the absence of oil and gas, it will run out much earlier. "These resources took about half a billion years to form, and we wasted it all within a hundred years."

Cohen praises the change that the American administration has undergone in regards to the climate sector after the elections and Barack Obama's rise to power.
What to do? Cohen asks and offers several principles for discussing the challenges.

• First, we must act quickly, because if we only continue to conduct research for fifty years, irreversible damage will be caused.

• Population growth must be slowed down. It is expected that by the middle of the century the population will increase by 50% to over 10 billion people in the 21s, and together with the increase in per capita consumption due to economic growth in China and India will cause an increase in energy demand and carbon emissions. The problem - the extreme Islam you are dealing with here in Israel, and the Catholic Church oppose the use of contraceptives, and present a high natural reproduction rate. However, Cohen points out that the growth rate has decreased greatly in recent years.

• Energy conservation - something that is still considered a dirty word - not long ago the electricity companies wanted to use more electricity, and people did not get used to saving. Many still buy a four-by-four vehicle that has a huge fuel consumption.

• Beyond the use of solar energy and wind power, each of these methods currently provides around 1% of all electricity production in the world, but in the last five years the rate of penetration of these energies has increased by 40% each year. This means doubling every two years. This rate of 40% has been going on for five years. The main driver was China which became the main producer of solar cells. The leader in the field of wind energy is Denmark - about 25% of the electricity production comes from wind and is still growing. Solar and wind energy currently make up a very small proportion of global energy production. I claim that there will be high growth in these areas. In California, laws were implemented about two years ago that require electric companies to produce a certain percentage of energy from renewable and clean sources.

Go back to the good old days of Israel as a leader in solar energy and start working. What the sun produces in an hour, can be used for electricity consumption for an entire year. So there is still a lot of room for improvement in this area.

Israel, fortunately, were the leaders in the use of solar energy. I was always proud to come to Lod and see the water tanks on the roofs - the only country they had. Something happened and Israel is not the leader today. I spoke with policy makers, the policy makers pay lip service today and nothing more.

Prof. Walter Kuhn is a prominent theoretician in the field of condensed matter, and in 1998 he was awarded the Nobel Prize for "developing the theory of the density functional". The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences noted that Prof. Cohen made a "pioneering contribution to the development of methods that can be applied in theoretical studies of the properties of molecules and the chemical processes involved in them." Thanks to the simplicity of this theory, it is often used in quantum physics. Following the advent of supercomputers, density functional theory became an essential tool in electronic materials science. Prof. Cohen also made an important contribution to the physics of semiconductors, superconductivity, surface physics and catalysis. Prof. Cohen wrote two hundred scientific articles and reviews.

Walter Kuhn is a professor of physics at the University of California, Santa Barbara, and was the founder and director of the National Institute of Theoretical Physics Foundation at that university. Previously he was a professor at both the Carnegie Institute of Technology in Pittsburgh and the University of California, San Diego. He was also a visiting scientist in the United States, Paris, Copenhagen, London and Zurich.


  1. Typing: instead of a car you need a car. Please remove the message after the correction.

  2. The damage caused by burning fossil fuels is dozens of times greater than the use of nuclear energy

  3. to one from Kfar Saba. (No. 3′ 12′ 14′ 16′ 19) and for everyone.
    A quick calculation shows that with an efficiency of 50% you don't need a lot of space to "electrify" the entire country.
    A. There are already solar cells with an efficiency of 50%, they are still experimental, but the progress is impressive.
    B. The sun produces, throughout its spectrum, about 1000 watts per square meter of peak energy.
    third. These cells will be available in about 3 years.
    Therefore, an energy solution by the sun is feasible.
    In my opinion, the ultimate solution would be a combination of solar energy and wind, which can be in the same energy field. Even if in the installation in the field only 30% of the area is used.
    Please, do the calculation and prove that it is applicable and worthwhile even with a lower efficiency.

  4. You're right. Electricity is produced and consumed during all daylight hours, you will have to plan a certain excess production for storage for the night. Because of cloudy days, and the hours of the day, the average annual power of panels to generate 1 KW/Hr Pik is 1600 W per year in the center of the country.
    I don't know what the national daily or annual electricity consumption distribution is. I suppose you can find out the data at the electric company.
    In any case, the main consumption is during working hours, when the large industrial plants are working, towards the night the consumption decreases significantly, therefore today there is significantly discounted pricing for industrial consumers at night.
    The purpose of the calculation was to understand the order of magnitude of the area and not necessarily to serve as a basis for government planning.

  5. S:
    I did not try to repeat the calculation, but hot summer afternoons are not the only consideration.
    In the winter evenings they heat up and then there is no sun at all.
    The bill should also include electricity generation for storage needs for sunless hours.

  6. I did a quick calculation - according to the data of the Ministry of Infrastructure, about 9 square meters of panels are required to create a 1 KW/Hr peak at noon on a sunny summer day in the central region. The maximum power of the Israel Electric Company is around 10 GW/Hr at noon on a hot summer day.
    So about 90 (let's say 100) square kilometers of solar panels are required for the electricity supply of the State of Israel. Such an area can be found in the Bekaa, in the Arava, perhaps to produce floating platforms of panels and in Zion Goel.

  7. A distinction must be made between the sun, which is a great resource that can and already today provides most of the energy needs of the universe, and human technological developments. As Prof. Kahn said - "One hour of sunshine on Earth can satisfy humanity's energy needs for an entire year." It is only necessary to harness the human energies to develop and perfect the systems for absorbing the abundance of the sun and turning it into available energy. We at MI have a glorious history in the field. You just have to continue the tradition. The association I founded - "Yhi - Or" education lit by solar energy AR - deals with the education of the younger generation - the scientists and engineers of tomorrow. As part of my work, I translated into Hebrew the film - "The Power of the Sun" which Prof. Walter Kahn was the director of production - a film that tells the history of photovoltaic cells - from the stage of pure science to applications first in space and now in solar power plants.

  8. He was right that for 50 years most of the research was done only in the field of tokamaks (like iter) which did not work then and will not work in 100 years.

  9. And this is what my lecturer in mechanics, Professor Barak Kol, commented on when he spoke about the energy problem: already 50 years ago we were told that there were still fifty years left...

  10. One of the KPS:
    From your mouth to the ears of… well, I don't have real ears to offer but I hope your bet turns out to be justified.

  11. To Michael, yes, I know, and that's why I included a few more examples of fusion reactors with potential. Even if the NIF fails then there are several other thermonuclear reactors with great potential to succeed.

  12. One of the KPS:
    So you'd rather do what I'd rather avoid anyway.
    I will wait patiently for the completion of the project.
    If he succeeds - I will be happy - and if he fails - I will be sorry - but in no case will I eat the hat.
    Unlike some others - I am not a prophet and therefore I cannot have an opinion on things that I do not know deeply.

  13. To Mr. Michael, the people who say that the nif project won't work are mostly self-interested and backed by the oil and gas companies and by scientists who also manage projects in the field of fusion but of a different type (mostly in the field of tokamaks). At the heart of the LIFE project, here is a lecture by Mr. Mozas (who, by the way, is Jewish) And also information in pdf format . Also a lecture by a researcher from the University of Washington in Seattle (USA) about a different type of melting pot, the FRC . And also a type of interesting polywell reactor (or IEC) that is budgeted to be put into the sea by the American Navy and if it works (which we will know in about a year or two as well as a lecture by Dr. Bossard that was given a year before his death in 2007 .

  14. They continue to mislead the public in order to raise oil prices.

    The oil will not run out so quickly because it continues to be created even today,
    And it's not from fossils...

  15. To Mr. Luke, the program you saw on channel 8 was made by an organization with left-wing and anti-nuclear views (greenpeace, bbc) also they talked about generation 2 miners and not generation 3 miners and especially not about generation 4 miners which is impossible to fault (there is more chance that you will win the lottery Three times a week confirms that there was a malfunction in the 3rd generation reactor and especially in the 4th generation reactor)

  16. Who has a problem with radical Islam? And with the Catholic Church? And with Judaism?

    You have to differentiate between being nice and being right!

  17. Yaron:
    According to the article you brought there are serious scientists who know the project in detail and believe in it and other serious scientists who know the project in detail and do not believe in it.
    Any expression of a position by a person who does not know the project in detail will be pretentious and worthless.
    I, personally, intend to just wait for the results.
    Anyway - it's interesting and thank you for the link.

  18. One of the CPS:
    50 percent of the Negev area? You probably don't know math or geography.
    Less than 2000 square kilometers are enough, with current technology (less than 25% costs). It is indeed a huge area, but far from 50%.

  19. I saw a program on Channel 8 about the danger of nuclear malfunctions, and it is important for me to say that the long-term damage caused by the malfunction in the USA 40 years ago and the explosion in Chernobyl, is null by sixty compared to the benefits of using nuclear reactors.
    The number of deaths that should have occurred according to expectations during the 20 years that have passed in Ocarina is much greater than the actual number of dead.
    The professor should update his information, with all due respect.

  20. Even if photovoltaic cells have an efficiency of 50% (not realistic at the moment) you need to cover half of the Negev to supply the electricity consumption in Israel which will only continue to grow.

  21. Number 1 you are wrong, we have much more solar energy than we need, theoretically enough to capture only one tenth of a percent of the solar energy that reaches us to meet all of humanity's energy needs. Because the utility/cost ratio of solar panels is going down exponentially, I expect that in about 10 years (mainly thanks to developments in the field of nanotechnology) we will have a practical possibility to satisfy all our needs using solar radiation alone.

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