The excellent and dispassionate article from Chris Nelder, lays out the future clearly if we cannot get our heads round the concept, that a low carbon future awaits us, whether we plan for it or not.
It fails to point out, however, that we need to use a large part of the remaining legacy of fossil fuels to create a comfortable low carbon future and that is is not the quanity of fossil fuel remaining but the useful energy gained after its extraction and processing. http://www.theoildrum.com/story/2006/8/2/114144/2387
The need for Leadership has never been greater or so hard to find.
The Long View on Energy
What is the long-term outlook for energy? From my study of the data, it’s pretty simple.
We’re essentially at peak oil now because the global recession has wiped out any hope of achieving some theoretical higher peak two years from now. July 2008 will probably prove to be the absolute peak, but the “peak” will really be a plateau stretching from roughly 2005-2012.
Then we will begin the long descent down the back of Hubbert’s Curve. By 2050, the world will have to make do with roughly half the current energy budget, all forms of energy included. By 2100, most fossil fuels will be kaput.
By 2150, I expect the world will be basically living off of solar income again, meaning biomass plus whatever remains of the renewable energy infrastructure. (At some point, I conjecture in the 2050-2100 time frame, it will get progressively more difficult to build and maintain renewable energy infrastructure because liquid fuels will be very limited and expensive.)
So, that’s the outlook. The data supporting it is all publicly available, as I have documented in painstaking detail in my book Profit from the Peak. Barring some unforeseen event, like aliens dropping some crazy new energy technology on us, or cracking the cold fusion conundrum, there is little data to suggest otherwise. …………………………
……………….Not Just Jobs, but the Right Jobs
Which brings us to the key point: Instead of seeking “shovel ready” projects that can be started within 180 days to create new jobs ASAP, the Obama team should be looking at the long view on energy and ensuring what we build now is truly built to last. Roads—especially new roads—are definitely not that.
According to the director of Washington-based Building America’s Future, some $16.5 billion in mass transit projects can be started within a year. (By comparison, tens of billions of dollars have already been committed to high-speed electric rail in Europe and Asia.) Those projects should be our immediate national priority, followed by some deep and serious planning for a long-term transportation infrastructure that will survive $150 oil and declining supply. President Roosevelt created just such a planning board as part of the New Deal, which eventually resulted in the interstate highway system.
By planning for it now, we could achieve a somewhat orderly transition away from liquid fuels and toward efficient electric transport. We’ll still create millions of new jobs, only they’ll be the right jobs. Jobs that won’t disappear the next time oil spikes.
Sooner or later, we will have to make some hard choices about what kind of future we want: one that is doomed, but to our current liking, or one that our children’s children can rely on. Do we really want to leave them a decrepit landscape of useless asphalt and concrete and an economy that’s run out of fuel?
Profiting from the Peak
Twilight in the Desert