Sustainability and the Energy Gap

My article below was published in April 2005 and I feel encapsulates unfolding events and the underlying causes as recognised in the US National Intelligence Council Report published today. Reported at

We live at a time when we will soon see the peak in oil production, this being widely predicted by reliable and independent sources. After, the expected outcomes range from economic meltdown to a rapid and orderly transition to nuclear and renewable sources.

Unfortunately for the developed western economies a number of things will almost inevitably conspire to disadvantage us this century.

·   Our democratic system.

·   The demographic fact that the WWII bulge of children is now retiring.

·   That UK has had over a century of ‘education for industrial and environmental decline’.

·   That an ingenuity/innovation gap exists.

·   The transition of control in the western companies from engineers to accountants and finally lawyers.

·   The continuing reductionist/compliance approach to organisational management. 

·   Engineering contract optimism on cost and time.

·   The planning regime.

These factors have already led to the loss of our manufacturing base (now occurring in the US)  and are currently threatening our infrastructures.


Our propensity to educate for industrial and environmental decline for more than a century has led to the situation where there is an insufficient science and engineering base to maintain and extend the infrastructure built up over the 20th century. This is made more critical by the retirement of the post WWII generation, who build up the electrical infrastructure and the nuclear generation capacity.


We are nearly at the mercy, as a society of not being able to support the quality of life that has been created for us by previous generations.


Putting this together we now find ourselves in a critical national position with regard to the ‘energy gap’ just acknowledged by Professor Sir David King. The short political timeframe and the planning regime has led to the deferment of decisions on the mix of energy we need, leaving us at the mercy of foreign sources of energy and reliant on a number of aging nuclear power stations.


This Century, assuming no doomsday, we will enter a more sustainable world, but the western democracies will probably have a far lower quality of life, even lower than a more equitable share of current resources would indicate.”


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