Home Page 2007 January 29

by Webmaster January 29, 2007 12:00

Within the energy profession there are groups (e.g., ASPO, ASPO-USA) grappling with the challenge of "Peak Oil." While the efforts of Al Gore and others have raised awareness of the threat of global warming, society is not in any way prepared for the imminent decline in global oil production.

In the near term, declining production will impact certain countries more than others. Cantarell, the largest field in the western hemisphere, is declining rapidly. Over the next couple of years, Mexico's economy will be hard-hit.

Without imports, the USA's domestic oil reserves would be exhausted in three years at the current rate of consumption. The Oil War option is losing favor. Technological breakthroughs will be too slow and voluntary conservation will be too shallow to avert widespread disruption of economic activity, especially transportation and consequently food. Lacking the political will to make conscious, rapid, drastic changes, Americans will be subjected to Mother Nature's adjustments; She did not negotiate with the Mayor of New Orleans; nor will She negotiate the American Way of Life when Saudi Arabia's Ghawar field collapses of its own accord.

Liquid fuel substitutes (tar sands, coal-to-liquids, oil shale, surprisingly even ethanol and biodiesel) are carbon intensive and will only exacerbate global warming. Plus they cannot be scaled up on a timely basis.

It would take one new nuclear power plant every week until 2050 to fill the oil gap. Minor detail, uranium shortages would emerge long before 2050, unless as yet unproven breeder reactors come on line soon.

While it will take time, direct conversion of solar radiation to electricity (photovoltaics and concentrating solar power) can be scaled up. One viable sustainable alternative also exists for repetitive travel (e.g., commuting -- more than half of all urban transport). It is the rapid build-out of solar powered electric vehicles on fixed guideways (the "podcar"). A continuous solar array, well within the width of the guideway, is sufficient to provide 100% of the power required for this efficient form of high capacity transit.




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