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Planet In Peril: Energy Crises

Updated on April 24, 2017
Lloyd Busch profile image

Lloyd Busch is the author of "Passive Resistance", a book on non-violent action, and has been published in the "Journal of Theoretics".

The Slow Death of Oil

Everybody is undoubtedly aware of the energy crises with politicians and media using words such as addiction, dependence, and non-renewable. But does being aware mean that you understand, do you know what the crisis is, how its being dealt with and even if its being dealt with.

The straight and simple answer is that human race is overpopulating the planet and wasting vital resources. A report supported by 1,360 scientists from 95 countries has warned that two thirds of the worlds natural machinery has been used or degraded by human activity.i China and India together account for over 2 billion people. World population which is now at approximately 6 billion people will grow by 3 billion by 2050.

For the last century humans have consumed natural resources at a suicidal rate. With the rise of China and India as economic superpowers the world energy demand will further increase. The present rate of consumption is growing at two percent annually. Another contributing factor is the rise in living conditions over the last century, nearly every facet of our life is dependent upon energy our television,power facilities, industry, and automobiles are all systems which require energy. We are entirely dependent upon constant energy sources to support our way of life.

Without energy how would we be able to produce, ship, and cook enough food to fed our cities of millions of souls. For many its not just our way of life at stake here, it also their very lives. The true cause for concern though is not our overpopulation or even our wasteful use of energy, these are just contributing factors, the true cause of concern is the fact that the majority of our energy comes from fossil fuels.

iTim Radford, Science editor, The Guardian, 2005.

Deepwater Horizon Disaster

Source

Beyond Peak Oil Production

Many people probably are thinking “I thought we had 40 years of oil left?”, the answer is more involved than a simple yes or no. According to the Oil & Gas Journal there is an estimated 1.27 trillion barrels of oil reserves at the beginning of 2004. This amount only includes discovered and technologically and economically feasibly extractable resources.

The U.S. Energy Information Administration estimates that in 2025 there will be more than twice the current reserves at 2.9 trillion barrels of reserves worldwide. Your asking how can there be more oil tomorrow than there is today, I thought it was non-renewable? There are three reasons for this disparity, first the estimate of 1.27 trillion barrels accounts for known reserves, there are still billions of barrels of oil reserves that remain undiscovered.

Second this amount only accounts for technologically extractable resources, there are billions of barrels of oil that remain unexploited because we are not technologically able to extract this resource, as are technology expands so will the reserves of usable oil. Lastly there are billions of barrels of oil that have been discovered but are not economically feasible to extract, meaning that the cost to extract the oil would be more than what the oil is actually worth, as the price of oil increases so will the available reserves of oil.

Oil production follows a bell curve, meaning that oil production doesn't come to a grinding halt but slows the same way the oil production rose, with time, this is known as the peak oil production theory. This theory has proved itself in examination of oil fields and oil reserves of the United States. Since 1990 oil reserves in the United States have dropped by 20 percent. While North Sea production after having peaked in 1999 is declining at an increasing rate from a flat rate of 7% to 8.5%, and then declining at a rate of 11%. What doesn't help are scandals such as the 23% of "lost" reserves at Royal Dutch Shell. In 2003 for the first time no new major oil fields were discovered.

Will the oil suddenly stop?

No.

Oil production follows a bell curve, meaning that oil production doesn't come to a grinding halt but slows the same way the oil production rose, with time, this is known as the peak oil production theory. The trouble lies in the fact that the easy and cheap to extract oil is gone and what is left is low-quality oil that is increasingly expensive to pump from the ground.

Peak Oil

Is civilization coming to an end?

No.

Civilization flourished for thousands of years before the advent of electricity and cheap energy there is no reason to think that it will all come to an abrupt end. This is not to say that life as we know it will not change, it will change, to what extent and at what cost is impossible to say. Its doubtful that we are going to be going back to horse and buggy, the technology is there. Change is coming and it will likely be slow and painful, but humans have an extraordinary ability of courage and will and have adapted to change in the past. Even under the worst-case scenario of economic collapse, wars, and resulting nuclear holocaust the human race will not only survive but flourish. After the Earth's population, energy, and ecosystems stabilize the world will be far better tomorrow than it will be today. Therefor the end of the oil age should not be feared or postponed but embraced with slow increments as we wean ourselves off of oil and towards a better tomorrow.

What is America doing about this coming crisis?

American leadership has reluctantly recognized our fossil fuel dependent economy, indeed we are addicted to oil. With the continuing decline in Americas oil reserves and our growing dependence on foreign energy sources coupled with the increasing demand for energy throughout the world has motivated Americans to look for the “energy of the future”. Car manufactures have been researching fuel cell technology for years, they have also been researching and producing flex-fuel vehicles capable of running on different fuels, such as ethanol and gasoline. Groups of farmers and oil companies are investing in and building ethanol distilleries.

The recent nuclear sharing agreement between America and India is meant curb India's growing economy from dependence on oil through the safe use of nuclear energy. Even with this and many other actions being carried out it is still not enough, Americans are still wasting energy at an enormous rate, large SUV's and lax energy efficiency guidelines only promote energy dependence. The water-downed federal energy policy act of 2005 was the first major legislation since 1992 calling for tax incentives on advanced energy saving technologies and energy efficiency standards on 16 products. However not since Jimmy Carter has there been any truly significant attempts towards energy efficiency. Considering the implications of this crises America is doing little compared to what could be done. For thirty years any meaningful change was halted by lobbyists and economists.

Nuclear Power

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What are other nations doing?

The energy problem is not just an American problem its a world problem which threatens to unravel the very delicate balance between nations. China for instance is planning on building 40 nuclear reactors over the next 15 years. While America has no plans on the table for new nuclear reactors. The most promising prospect was China's 11th 5-year plan which called for a 20 percent reduction in energy consumption per unit of GDP (gross domestic product) by 2010. The plan states its basic goals as conserving resources and protecting the environment.i

China's 13th five year plan involves building up to 8 new nuclear power plants a year with an increase to 10 plants a year by 2020 with a total of 40 nuclear power plants. China also produces 3.3% of its electricity from wind power.

Brazil saves an estimated 8 billion dollars annually by using alcohol produced from Brazil grown sugarcane. In fact Brazilian legislation requires gasoline to be blended at 24 to 26 percent alcohol. Ninety percent of vehicle sales in Brazil between 1983 and 1988 were vehicles that run solely off of ethanol. In 2005 80 percent of vehicles produced in Brazil were dual-fuel, capable of running off of both gasoline and alcohol.

iCIA World Factbook China.

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Wind Power

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Is nuclear power a safe replacement for fossil fuels?

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© 2016 Lloyd Busch

Comments & Thoughts

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      Howard Schneider 15 months ago from Parsippany, New Jersey

      Excellent Hub, Lloyd. This is a world problem and we are not doing nearly enough to solve it. Climate change will advance unabated if we continue on this path. This is an existential problem for us and we need to pivot quickly towards alternative energy sources. Politicians balk because of the economic cost. Don't they know there is money to be made in these fledgling industries? Don't they fear for their children, grandchildren, and beyond?