Friday, March 04, 2005

Running Out of Energy

Oh Flippin' 'eck,

I've become matey with Mr Energy Bloke over the last couple of months. Now every time I see him down the local club, he waves bits of paper or books or website addresses that are all saying the world is fast approaching something that resembles Armageddon. And all because fossil fuel supply has (probably) peaked. It's all downhill from here.

When I was a kid in school, I was led to believe that based on known supply and demand at that time, the crunch could be expected round about 2017, but don't worry, they keep finding new sources that are twice as big as previously known sources, so it could carry on indefinitely. Well, guess what. Oil companies have been fibbing about the size of their reserves, and some of them have bitten the bullet and publicly said 'actually, we don't have that much, we only have this much'. On top of that, global demand has increased dramatically - China was never factored into the earlier equations, but is now consuming oil like there's no tomorrow (to coin a phrase).

I had indicated in a previous post on this blog that I expected the UAE to pump resources into solar power as the crunch approached. But I guess I was wrong - the current methods of turning sunlight into electricity are staggeringly inefficient (especially if you take into account the cost of production of the necessary gadgetry - photo-voltaic cells or sun-tracking reflectors). Energy Bloke says we would need fields of mirrors covering an area as big as Saudi Arabia to supply our needs.

The problem is that the world, especially the developed bits, are now so reliant on oil / gas, and electricity produced from those sources that when the crunch comes there will be major violence, total disruption and staggering numbers of deaths. We have never seen anything like what may well be coming. We are not likely to see a gradual transformation back into an agrarian society. We are instead going to see major wars related to one country trying to secure a supply of oil from another (in fact, you've spotted it, that was what Iraq was about, sequels likely to be coming up every year or two from now on). It is not going to be nice.

If you can bear any more depressing news, read

Mind you, before that happens, we could all be wiped out by the latest strain of Asian Bird Flu.