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1. Read the book ;Yes We Can ! - The world is in crisis, can we fix it?; Technology based solutions detailed 2. Blog on 3. Find your role



Yes We Can ! has 3 main elements

  1. Write the book - technology based solutions to climate change and other world crises that start with the premise, "Anything not contrary to the laws of physics is possible."  We have 35 years to:
  • + Verify the scientific and engineering underpinnings of the promising approaches identified
  • + Build consensus on feasibility
  • + Identify the critical path that achieves the existential requirement of averting 2 degrees C in the most effective way possible
  • + Identify early adapters
  • + Get started
  • + Get it working

2. Host a blog that invites comment and contributions from all interested parties.  Edited postings inform successive editions of the book.

3. Select low hanging fruit from the book chapters and blog entries for engineering development along the lines of bullets under 1. above.

The proposer has chosen his approach based on the following considerations:

Feasibility: Step 1 is completely feasible.  Proposer has written and self-published a small book (Transportation 2030, Ronald Smith, Amazon Books) and is fully capable of writing the proposed work.  Chapter summaries are already in place.  Step 2 engages the maximum possible number of MIT alumni and friends to read the book, improve on it and help with making it suitable for a wider audience in subsequent editions.  Step 3 is the transition from belief to action.  Will the actions inspired by this book be successful?  Read it and you decide.

Novelty: Many books have been written on the subject of climate change and how civilization might avert its worst consequences.  However, the proposed work is the first attempt to: 

A. Deal with the fact that each step in an evolutionary change must provide a benefit that rewards the successful adapters

B. Identify feasible infrastructure that, when completed, will make further innovative solutions far easier to accomplish

C. Show practical ways in which the widest possible participation can be harnessed to accelerate progress


Impact:   See Call to action below

What actions do you propose?


Global climate change caused by human actions has progressed in recent decades from a scientific hypothesis to the subject of international treaty negotiations.  We have recognition.  We also have a goal – avert a 2 degree C (hereafter 2 C) global temperature rise that is predicted to occur by 2050 unless we take appropriate actions.  The book in your hands provides a top level plan and describes a proposed point of departure for technology development supporting an integrated system response to the 2 C challenge. 

The 2 degree C program calls for a high level of discipline and resolve.  Best practices for large scale engineering programs provide planning examples that:

·         Clearly state program goals in order of importance

·         Identify the concerns of all stakeholders in advance and recognize that no stakeholder is powerless

·         Identify bottlenecks and the resources and incentives that must be afforded at each stage along a critical path to assure timely program completion

·         Lay out a point of departure wherein

o   A world as it might be when the goals are achieved is modeled at a high level of detail

o   Point solutions to goals are identified

o   Trade studies are performed in simulation to make planning choices

o   Risks are mitigated

o   Concerns of all stakeholders are addressed

With the end point clearly articulated, program planning proceeds in an orderly fashion to approach the goals, working back from interim milestones to build confidence that constraints will not block forward progress as solutions are brought on line at full scale.

“Yes We Can ! – The world is in crisis, can we fix it” is more than a book.  It is a 3 part program:

1.       Write and publish the book; frame the issues in terms of problem description, goals, stakeholder concerns, and bottleneck identification.  Within the book, articulate a vision of solving the 2 C problem as a large scale engineering program; provide a world view based on program success, identify interim goals and their leading candidate point solutions, provide trade study examples, identify and discuss risks, and provide scenarios wherein stakeholders have appropriate incentives to buy in to the program at each successive stage of implementation.  The book comprises:

·         A comprehensive plan to avert 2 degree C

·         A textbook to set the stage and orient a generation of professionals who will address pieces of the 2 degree C aversion program in a more cohesive way by virtue of a written overview, and

·         A point of departure solution set that overcomes the blank page syndrome; these solution elements will either be adopted or replaced by superior approaches, but no one should say that the program is vague or aimless

2.       Host a blog that invites comment and contributions from all interested parties.  Edited postings inform successive editions of the book.  Hyperlinks to relevant blogs and publications create a central index to additional resources and projects that can be integrated into a cohesive program.

3.       Start the work.  Begin with low hanging fruit from book chapters and blog entries.  For each of several parallel projects:

·         Verify the scientific and engineering underpinnings of the project

·         Build consensus on feasibility

·         Identify the critical path within each project and across projects that achieves the overall requirement of averting 2 degree C in the most effective way possible

·         Identify progress limiting constraints and resources that may be brought to bear to mitigate them

·         Identify early adapters

·         Launch pilot projects that validate the overall solution or parts thereof

·         Converge on a comprehensive solution with benchmarks and exit criteria

·         Measure interim progress and apply additional resources as required to achieve the existential 2 C aversion objective

Figure 1.  Visual aid for 2 C solution



Figure 1 provides a visual aid for understanding the 2 C solution offered in the book, “Yes, we Can !”.  The solution results from a system integration program carried out on a planetary scale.  The system integration program, in turn, rests on a necessary and sufficient set of supporting technologies.  The program could technically succeed with 3 legs; transportation, energy, and materials.  However, as is done with virtually every table used today, the fourth leg is added for, well, security.

Each of the supporting technologies is discussed individually in the book chapter summaries that follow, along with the rationale for identifying it as a necessary precondition to the most effective 2 C solution.

Book Preface

Chapter 1. Transportation

There are more than one Billion cars on Earth in 2014.  Sometime around the year 2030 that number will be two Billion.

Frantic growth of automobile traffic comes at a price.  World energy infrastructure will be stressed to find enough energy to power such an expanded fleet.  Taking the path of least resistance by scaling up hydrocarbon fuel production aggravates the already serious risk of global warming due to massive CO2 production planet-wide.  Initiatives to mitigate the worst consequences of runaway environmental degradation caused by automotive traffic include public transit, smart highways, improved hydrocarbon engine efficiency, hybrid vehicles and all electric vehicles.

Manufacturing the vehicles and building the roads on which expanded traffic will flow adds another dimension to the challenge facing communities in coming years.  However, the prospect of new production and new infrastructure creates an opportunity.  If the vehicles and roadways are organized and built with traffic expansion issues in mind, a better overall solution may be forthcoming.

In “Transportation 2030”, [1. Transportation 2030, Ronald Smith, Amazon books, November 2012], inventor Ronald Smith [ 2. US Patent 8,783,192; issued 22 July 2014]  lays out a plan for developing an all electric traffic system called Global RApid Transit InfraStructure (GRATIS); a solution to the challenges of transportation in the year 2030.  Figure 2, below, provides an overview of GRATIS



The all electric vehicle operates on present day roads and converts by simply retracting wheels to a linear drive designed for GRATIS roadways.  The roadways are both local and long distance.  Vehicles entering at any point in the system convert to automatic control.  Figure 3. shows vehicle wheels.


The vehicle wheel assembly uses three electric motors for rolling, steering about wheel turning axis and deploying wheel strut to retract inside wheel well.  The motor that extends or retracts wheel also provides suspension when wheel is down.  Vehicle linear drive elements are elevated away from street level when vehicle drives on ordinary roads.  When wheel is retracted, linear motor drives ride just above roadway and move vehicle in cooperation with conductive roadway surface.  Vehicles employ extended wheels on ordinary streets and roads, then retract wheels while continuing forward motion and engage linear electromagnetic drive as vehicles transfer to GRATIS roadways in a smooth transition with no requirement for pausing to reconfigure.

  Vehicles also have rechargeable battery electric power, interface to automatic driving and route planning that takes control when vehicle enters GRATIS system, low friction under surface cooperating with low friction roadway surface to minimize energy loss in the event of vehicle roadway contact, means of latching to adjacent vehicles on sides, rear and front end to facilitate close convoy and emergency towing, communications and display equipment comparable to home or office.

In a top view, GRATIS roadways have a conductive top surface that cooperates with vehicle linear drive elements to produce motive force.  A representative section of conductive surface is shown in Figure 4. below, where the dark portion represents conductive material and the clear portion represents non-conductive voids in the conductive surface.  The conductive surface has a nested pattern of non-conductive voids defining current loop pathways through conductive strips of the conductive surface surrounding the voids.  [Further details are provided in book.] 


Figure 4.  Roadway conductive surface

Roadway tiles are laid together to provide a smooth continuous vehicle operation while passing from lane to lane.  Roadway configurations include on-ramps, local lines, high speed lines, mixing bowls, connecting roadways, roadways within large scale parking facilities, roadways within neighborhood parking facilities and intra-city lattice roadway elements. 


Reduce commuting time

In the USA, 120 Million workers spend on average one hour daily commuting.  Considering lost productivity and the deleterious health effects of stressful travel, we may value that time at ten dollars per hour.  An annual cost of 0.3 trillion dollars is incurred and adding non-commuting travel cost leads to a conservative estimate of 0.6 trillion dollars per year.  By cutting travel time in half, GRATIS will save Americans 0.3 trillion dollars per year.  GRATIS vehicles are designed to move back and forth seamlessly from legacy surface roads to GRATIS roadways.  A passenger enters vehicle at home and exits within easy walking distance of the workplace or other destination.  Travel time is reduced by; increased velocity on roadways, comprehensive integration of interconnected roadways to eliminate stop and go effects, pervasive urban penetration, ample parking and integration of parking with destination access.

Save energy

Approximately half of the energy consumed by a car is associated with stop and go driving because accelerating consumes more energy than coasting.  Anyone who cares to verify this statistic can compare their personal measured mileage with their car’s rated highway mileage.  By planning individual trips and designing an infrastructure that virtually never requires travelers to make a full stop inside the system, GRATIS goes a long way toward reducing energy use.  Regenerative braking, low friction roadway and efficient all electric drive contribute further to GRATIS energy efficiency.  Overall energy consumption is approximately 10% of that associated with a 30 mile per gallon gas burning car.  Transportation accounts for 30% of total present day U.S. energy consumption.  Reducing transportation consumption by 90% will eliminate 27% of today’s energy use.

Mitigate global warming

The most important human influence on global warming is CO2 emissions.  By reducing energy consumption, the CO2 emissions associated with energy that is not used are automatically eliminated.  Further, the choice of an all electric car completely eliminates tailpipe emissions, replacing them with emissions from electric power generation.  Electric utilities today are striving to reduce the CO2 emissions in generating plants through:

  • Improved efficiency
  • Use of non-emitting renewable and nuclear energy
  • Carbon sequestrastion

To the extent that utilities are successful in these emission reduction programs, driving an all electric vehicle will reduce greenhouse gas production associated with transportation.

Long distance travel 

GRATIS long distance trains have the following characteristics:

 1) target train cruising speed is 2,000 meters/second

 2 . . 10) [additional details are provided in book]

 11) linear induction elements embedded in roadway under trains cooperate with train mounted linear motors to generate forces that accelerate, decelerate, guide laterally and levitate trains

A distinctive feature of long distance train lines is that curves are very gradual.  This characteristic stems from the extremely high velocity that trains are expected to attain.  Along with the requirement for globally straight lines, the roadway lanes and structures housing them must be precisely straight locally so that trains will not be subjected to lateral disturbances during transit.  In order to accommodate the gradual curve requirement, long distance lines will be constructed as bridges above the ground, high enough that local terrain imposes no constraints on roadway placement.  Roadway bridging structures are fabricated from extremely light weight materials.  The design for light weight features maximum use of tensile supports.  In addition, innovative compressive materials and foundation systems will be used in order to place the roadways high in the air and carry the traffic loads at design altitude. 

GRATIS aircraft

In a mature system, roadway infrastructure is integrated with air travel.  Aircraft may take the following form:  [Book provides technical details.]

Access to space

A vehicle subjected to steady linear drive launch force will continue to accelerate along a launch ramp.  The ramp length S, exit velocity v, acceleration time t and acceleration a are related by the formulas:

S = v2/(2a)     v = at

6 gravities acceleration over 150 seconds produces an exit velocity of 9,000 m/s at the end of a 675 Km launch ramp.  This velocity places a spacecraft at geosynchronous altitude, where a rocket burn can keep it in geosynchronous orbit. 

This chapter described GRATIS and explored some of the ramifications.  A proposed solution, GRATIS provides a point of departure for comparison with other trade study candidates.  It is described in sufficient detail to begin work to validate the scientific and engineering premises.  Engineering development is needed to address; electrical power, vehicle angular alignment, vehicle motion dynamic stability, use of permanent magnets, EMI effects, battery capacity and battery charge/discharge rate.  Early work, including critical experiments, small scale demonstrations, modeling and simulation will set the stage for system validation and deployment.  Benefits are real and the time is right.

Chapter 2. Energy

The technology developed for energy production and distribution will have more impact on the 2 C solution than any other single factor.  Baseline assumptions are:

·         Improved efficiency of energy use will occur to the extent practical

·         A major shift from fossil fuels to non-carbon electric power will be pervasive

·         Energy distribution will be primarily via electric utility power lines

·         The solution will include switching from fossil fuel fired electric generating plants to a mix of;

o   Hydro-electric

o   Nuclear

o   Solar

o   Wind

o   Geothermal

o   Ocean wave and currents

Each of the proposed future energy sources is discussed individually in this chapter.

Hydro-electric power generation

Hydro-electric power generation has been extensively developed and provides approximately 16% of global energy today.  Approximately one third of the total generating potential from this non-carbon source has been developed to date.  In some circumstances, hydro-power development is contra-indicated; for example where large population centers would be flooded by the reservoir or where silt build-up is likely to shorten the useful life of a generating plant.  In any case, the potential for continuing to expand hydro-power is finite.  Therefore it is proposed for development up to the sustainable limit without adverse side effects.  In 2050, hydro-power may provide 15% of total energy use, which is projected to double from present day levels.

Nuclear power generation

Nuclear power, already a significant contributor to global energy production, is proposed as a central mainstay base power generation source by 2050, continuing to increase its percentage of the total thereafter.  Several developmental nuclear reactor designs have been advanced in recent years.  A very promising candidate among these designs is the one envisioned by Transatomic.  Transatomic proposes a reactor based on molten salt fuel that dramatically increases fuel utilization, improves safety, addresses waste disposal, and expands the fuel supply.   Potentially lower cost and shortened regulatory approval cycles are leading indicators that a system like Transatomic’s can be scaled up to provide more than half of future global energy requirements.  The target for 2050 is 60%.

Solar photovoltaic power generation

Solar photovoltaic is a proven technology that can be scaled to any desired level.  The main concerns are sunlight availability, maintenance, and the cost of solar panels and their installation.  Solar availability is addressed by energy storage, an important topic in its own right.  Seasonal and long term weather related variability is addressed by allowing solar to provide a modest fraction of total energy, while relying on an always available source for base load.  The 2050 target for solar electric power generation is 10%.

Wind power generation

Wind power generation is expanding rapidly.  The latest technology for wind power features advanced motors, high strength composite towers and very large blades.  Although the favorable sites for wind power are finite, we are presently far from saturation.  The 2050 target for wind electric power generation is 10%.


Geothermal power generation is a sleeper.  With advanced tunnel boring and ocean floor access technology, geothermal power could be scaled to a high percentage of total generation.  Because the future cost of geothermal access is unknown, however, we reserve judgement and estimate that 3% of total electric power generation in 2050 will be geothermal.

Ocean tides and currents

Ocean tides and currents are a promising resource.  However, the ability to scale ocean energy development is limited by its useful availability along a narrow coastal strip.  A possible exception to this premise is ocean power for use on artificial ocean islands, which may occupy a large fraction of ocean surface in the distant future.  Our target for ocean power in 2050 is 2%.

Energy storage

If all targets are met, electric power generation in 2050 will be 100% non-carbon.  For this scenario to work, there is one requirement above and beyond identifying the power generation means; energy storage.  The proposed energy storage method is batteries or battery-like devices, which take electric energy in and provide electric energy out on demand.  Three leading energy storage candidates are listed in the table below, highest specific energy first.  Note that Technology Readiness Level (TRL) is highly variable and the first listed candidate also has the lowest technology readiness.  Gasoline is included in the list as a point of comparison.


Although the fuel cell has higher specific energy, the battery has a higher charge/discharge cycle efficiency.  Either technology may provide the energy storage medium of the future.  High strength graphene flywheel illustrates the concept that investing in technology today may yield performance advantages in the future.  This precept applies to every topic in the book.  By 2050, the specific energy advantage of gasoline over batteries may be reversed.  

Chapter 3. Materials

Materials science underlies every technological advance.  The proposals in “Yes We Can !” are no exception.  GRATIS transportation infrastructure relies heavily on high strength cables and composite structures for its suspension above ground level, a key to performance, softening eminent domain issues, and cost.  Transatomic nuclear power designs are predicated on formulations of liquid fuel, corrosion resistant pipes and valves, and zirconium hydride fuel moderator.  Batteries and high tensile strength flywheel performance are totally dictated by material properties.  Material science research can be accelerated with extra funding.  Equally critical, however, is time.  The ability to know the materials requirements 10 years in advance is an important multiplier on program affordability.  The proposed program schedule leaves 10 years to develop key materials.

Chapter 4. Security

Security is a state of mind.  Although ephemeral, it is a necessary precondition for progress of any kind.  Another way to understand security is via its opposite – insecurity.  Insecurity begets fear, and fear paralyzes.  By a kind of circular reasoning, we define security in this chapter as the level of stability and predictability in society that allows a large scale, complex program to proceed in an orderly fashion.  Using a limited definition for the term allows us to measure and assess the degree to which adequate security supports the 20 C program.  Security is not the absence of threats; nor is it possession of overwhelming strength, although each of these may contribute to relevant security.

From an organizational perspective, security is provided by police, hospitals, fire fighters, intelligence agencies, and the uniformed military services.  These skilled professionals devote their careers to understanding threats and preventing their fruition.  Acting in concert, they protect life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  They give us confidence that, trusting in their vigilance, we may lead a normal life without looking over our shoulders at every turn.

Threats come in various sizes and shapes.  The threats posed by those who truly wish us harm and steadfastly plan their attacks must be met with correspondingly strident defensive measures or pre-emptive strikes.  On the other hand, if our adversaries merely envy us or seek to enhance their prospects at our expense, we should concentrate on playing our game and hold the possibility of launching a violent attack in reserve, to be used only as a last resort.

Another theme related to security is “What are we willing to pay?”  The U.S. spends $600 Billion annually on defense, more in absolute terms than any other nation, but less as a percentage of Gross Domestic Product than Russia, Israel or Saudi Arabia.  Because we are wealthy, we have more to lose.  On the other hand, because we are wealthy, we can better afford security second to none.

How best to deploy our hard earned defense spending dollars?  Decision criteria include:

·         Concern ourselves with the prospect of armed conflict against those belligerents who constitute a clear and present danger

·         By analogy with criminal justice, deny our adversaries the motive, the means, and the opportunity to do us harm

o   Motive – in some cases, grievances are structural or long standing.  Nevertheless, we should strive for reconciliation of differences around the world; promote justice and opportunity, reduce extreme poverty, and mitigate global warming.  In cases where the carrot is interpreted not as a gesture of friendship but a sign of weakness, motive may be diminished through making sure that a belligerent entity will be unable to enjoy the fruits of victory; scorched earth and mutually assured destruction are examples from history.

o   Means – [see details in book]  These and similar actions diminish the ability of antagonists to do harm.

o   Opportunity – [see details in book]  These actions make the window of opportunity for an opponent narrower or remove targets from proximity to attackers.

·         Invest defense dollars in dual use technology.  This makes the money go further and, in a best case, returns rewards that far exceed the investment.

The United States, Canada, Europe, Australia, parts of Asia and parts of South America have adequate security in the narrowly defined sense of this chapter.  In the coming decades, it will be necessary to extend similar levels of security to the rest of the world in order to make the 2 C solution a global one.

Chapter 5. System Integration

This chapter proposes a comprehensive point solution for the 2 C challenge.  The solution presented should be viewed, not as a prescription, but as a point of departure that builds confidence in the possibility for continued research and system development to produce an effective solution, on time, and within an affordable budget.

Like the table shown in Figure 1, proposed system integration is supported on four interconnected legs, each of which is discussed in this chapter.

Leg 1 – transportation

The transportation proposal  presented in Chapter 1:

·         Is self-funding via tolls and improved productivity

·         Supports 2 C goals through conversion to electric vehicles and improved energy efficiency

·         Draws on and provides funding for material science developments that enable suspension of roadways above ground and spin off multiple new applications

·         Revitalizes the U.S. manufacturing and construction sectors

·         Supports security by delivering military materiel and soldiers reliably and rapidly, just in time

·         Connects people around the world to an unprecedented degree

Transportation is considered the first priority because it makes everything else run more smoothly.  Schedule priority accorded to transportation infrastructure recognizes it as a long lead item that will be a vital contributor to the 2 C solution in the  2030 – 2050 time frame.

Leg 2 – energy

The energy proposal in Chapter 2 is mainly reinforcing what we already know; the 2 C solution has conversion to non-carbon fuels at its center.  What is new is a realization that such a conversion is not merely possible; proper planning and preparation makes it relatively painless.  With a path to converting transportation to electric power identified, known methods for using electric power in industry and agriculture can be brought on line in a straightforward manner.  Electric power generation, the remaining big use of carbon fuels, may be accomplished over time as existing carbon fuel generators reach the end of their useful lives.  Lower cost of carbon fuel electric power remains a sticking point.  For that reason, the integrated plan calls for early research into ways of reducing the cost of non-carbon electric power generation.  In fact, such research and development is already occurring and may well provide low cost energy in time to avoid any requirement for Government interdiction of carbon fuels.  However, if Government interdiction does become necessary, having affordable alternatives in place and ready to scale up will prove to be a wise investment indeed.

Like transportation, the energy sector draws on and provides funding for materials research and development.  Examples include materials for batteries, next generation nuclear power materials, and energy conserving buildings fabricated with developmental materials.

Leg 3 – materials

New materials needed for transportation and energy infrastructure were discussed above.  In addition, there are ways in which the game changing properties of next generation materials may directly contribute to an integrated 2 degree C solution.  Some of these are discussed in this chapter.

The build out of envisioned transportation infrastructure calls for millions of kilometers of roadways made with high strength-to-weight composite materials.  Use of any material on such a scale will lead to dramatic cost reduction.  Strong, low cost fabrication materials will in turn bring feasibility to large scale projects such as long distance water pipelines that, in combination with shade producing sky cover, may bring desert lands to life.  The sky cover also provides an opportunity for large scale planetary albedo control and solar panel deployment.  Solar panels are another materials research priority. 

Recovering desert lands for agriculture provides a safety valve for population expansion and finding productive livelihood for those displaced by warfare.  Planting bamboo, as a first step, will stabilize the soil and begin the carbon recapture process.

High tensile strength materials for flywheel energy storage may reverse the heretofore lopsided energy density advantage of fuels over batteries.  This reversal removes one of the few remaining objections to electric vehicles.

Materials research, poorly understood by the lay population and arguably under-appreciated by almost everyone, is a hidden asset that will come into its own and receive ever increasing support as the crucial role of advanced materials in the 2 C solution becomes evident. 

Leg 4 – security

A vibrant, highly integrated economy is the best foundation on which to build security infrastructure.  Efficient and effective security provisions, in turn, provide a necessary part of the environment in which the economy can flourish.  The ways in which we seek to protect and preserve our civilization will evolve alongside every other aspect of our lives.

Because the element of surprise is so important in conflicts, some risks will be faced with little or no opportunity for advance preparation.  For this reason, rapid and flexible response capability is a key part of military operations.  Therefore, a transportation infrastructure that delivers people and materiel to any point on the globe within hours, not days, is a powerful arrow in the defense quiver.

Conclusion – A call to action

All, MIT alumni included, who read this book should take the following actions:

·         Form an opinion regarding the urgency of 2 C – is it an existential threat, a threat of unknown importance, or something that can be safely neglected for the time being.

·         If you believe that the threat is or may be very important, help spread awareness among your contacts. [Hyperlink to a list of venues for public participation here]

·         If you have expert knowledge in any area related to the proposals in “Yes We Can !” share it in the blog.  [URL here]

·         If you can contribute professional skills to a relevant development program, make your skills and interests known via [Hyperlink here].  Part of the plan is forming teams within a center of excellence investigating 2 degree C solutions and developing plans, designs, and systems that will contribute to the overall infrastructure identified in the book.

·         Advocate community and national action as you see fit.

Attachment A. The Blog

See book, “Yes We Can !” for details.

Attachment B. Financing the program

See book for details.