A World’s Fair Spotlights Energy
GEOTHERMAL energy, nuclear energy, hydro energy, solar energy, wind energy, tidal energy . . . anyone visiting the 1982 World’s Fair at Knoxville, Tennessee, was bombarded with these and other terms describing the wide variety of energy sources man has endeavored to tap to serve his needs.
The 184-day fair is drawing to a close this month, and during its six-month existence millions of people have had the opportunity to visit it. The theme of the fair, “Energy turns the world,” was highlighted throughout the pavilions and exhibits scattered over seventy-two acres (29 ha) of fairgrounds. Twenty-two nations shared in the exposition. With over half a million visitors the first week and over two million by the end of the first month, it was apparent that the publicity for the fair was successful, and that large numbers of visitors would be forthcoming.
Certainly the theme of “Energy” is a timely one. Since the oil crisis of the seventies, nations around the earth have become keenly aware of the need to conserve energy as well as to find new energy sources. Due to the unfounded belief that ‘our energy sources are unlimited,’ governments have permitted the wasting of incredible amounts of energy. Even now, as a large topographical map in the United States pavilion indicates, more than half the energy consumed in the United States is wasted due to inefficient practices. ‘We still have vast stores of energy,’ some will claim, adding: ‘Why the United States has over two trillion tons of coal yet to be extracted from the earth.’ ‘However,’ someone else will counter, ‘when you burn coal to release that energy, you get air pollution, a lot of cancer, a lot of lung trouble. A high price to pay for that energy!’
Certain areas of the fair stressed the benefits of nuclear energy. The new breeder reactor called the Super-Phenix, spotlighted in the France pavilion, is said to produce 100 times more energy from a supply of uranium than will a conventional breeder reactor. This, reportedly, would allow the uranium supply of the earth to last for centuries rather than decades. However, critics of nuclear energy are quick to point out that with the high chance of human error, mechanical failure and design mistakes an accident in a nuclear power plant could be devastating.
Throughout the grounds there were numerous displays showing the progress being made in harnessing the energy of the sun—solar energy. Photovoltaic conversion was designed into several of the buildings so that solar energy could be used for heating and cooling them. Many countries are increasing their research and use of solar energy. The admitted problem with this method is that with present technology it is still too expensive to produce energy in sufficient quantities.
A number of countries showed extensive use of geothermal energy obtained from steam and hot water within the earth. Since the ground temperature increases three degrees Celsius (5.4° F) per 100 meters (328 ft) depth, by digging 2,000 meters (6,562 ft) down, hot water of about 60 degrees Celsius (108° F) hotter can be obtained. Some governments hope to use this hot water and steam to power binary-cycle power generators to produce electricity. Of course, the drawbacks are evident. Not all areas have subterranean basins of thermal water to draw upon for energy. Areas with volcanic activity would not be good. Also, large-scale geothermal development may have a detrimental effect on the environment, and this has slowed many developing firms from more active exploration.
Another source of energy that may be tapped is the wind. Several countries showed how they made use of wind generators to produce electricity and also to power water pumps. In some areas steady breezes can be put to good use. Harnessing the power of the oceans was also evident by the production of tidal power plants in several countries. The raw energy produced by the movement of the tides has been used to turn large turbines and produce electricity at a cost similar to that of a large conventional thermal station. Unfortunately, there are only about twenty known areas in the whole world that would lend themselves to the construction of a tidal power plant.
Yes, there was much to see and learn about energy at the fair. However, due to the arrangement of the grounds and pavilions, a number of problems arose for many visitors. With a population of under two hundred thousand, Knoxville was not really equipped to handle the many thousands swarming to it to attend the fair. Many entrepreneurs set up overnight trailer parks in an endeavor to house transient guests by the thousands. The fair administration had expected a maximum of only 60,000 visitors per day. However, when the number swelled to over 80,000 per day, it could be understood why it took several hours for the lines of visitors going into the pavilions to get through. Because of the extensive lines many people saw only a few areas after spending a whole day at the fair. One thing that compounded the problem was the limited number of shows each day in some of the pavilions. With a capacity for only a few hundred at a time, it could take weeks for only one day’s crowd to see all of it.
After visiting the fair the sobering thought realized is that mankind today is still very much in an energy crisis. Although efforts are being doubled and tripled to solve the problems, there are still many counteracting elements. Greed still plays a strong role in cornering areas of the world rich in energy-producing material. One pavilion at the fair alludes to the energy problems stemming from one country’s placing an embargo on oil. That very same country, in another pavilion, points out that it is actually taking steps to relieve the energy problem in the earth. As long as there are differing views and goals among these nations, it is not likely that united success will be attained in the field of energy.
In man’s efforts to make up for the energy shortage, many of the methods that he uses to increase the production of energy are having a ruinous effect on the earth’s ecological and environmental conditions. We can therefore certainly look forward to the Creator’s caring for whatever energy needs mankind may have. Certainly there is no limit to the energy he can provide for mankind’s beneficial use. (Isaiah 40:26) Indeed, before man ruins the earth in an effort to keep up his energy supplies, may Jehovah God step in with his proper administration and infinite scientific knowledge to provide all our energy needs indefinitely!—Revelation 11:15, 18.
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Thousands visited the fair daily
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Crowds hear about energy conservation from a lecturer assisted by a “talking” robot at his side