Wednesday, December 14, 2011

More Thinking on Peak Oil and the Future

What are some positive outlooks on the Peak Oil scenario?
First, I must say up front that the only way out that does not involve a challenge to our energy usage both now and growing into the future would be the development of fusion power to point where it can be deployed on the electric grid. With such an unlimited power source, you could power the desalination plants to solve our water crises, you could power the electrolysis to generate plenty of hydrogen for other applications including fuel cells for transportation and the continued production of agricultural fertilizers. It would be the perfect solution and the gateway to a truly new and better world.
Unfortunately, fusion (in both hot and cold/LENR varieties) is far from fully developed and proven. It is often said that is has been 20-25 years away for the last 30-40 years. If I could have one wish granted, it would be that fusion would become a feasible and modestly priced power solution immediately.
Short of that, our best hopes lie in solar. Continued work and development on solar materials and installation have the potential to mitigate the peak oil crisis on a very significant level. As a matter of fact, I have installed on my computer a client that is helping the Harvard Clean Energy Project discover new and cheaper solar panel materials. This is distributed computing project that anyone can join. It is truly a race against time.
My hope is that solar power gets widely deployed on a personal level relieving stress on the grid. In other words, I think every home should be equipped with solar panels. It only makes sense in a world of declining fossil fuel supplies.
Solar could POSSIBLY advance far enough to provide the type of unlimited energy that fusion would provide, but I doubt it. Solar isn't a growth strategy, in my opinion. It is a rescue strategy. It has the potential to carry us through difficult declines in fossil fuels. But mankind will absolutely need fusion to continue the kind of growth seen during the age of oil.
As a sidenote, and in relation to yesterday's post, the upcoming US occupation of Saudi Arabia won't mean that the world will be starved of energy. Much of the rest of the world will have progressed or will progress into solar and wind to the point that they can maintain a slightly lower standard of living, combined with oil they are able to obtain. But the US will control the world stage, sharing oil with China as a matter of mutual economic interest, and other allies as it sees fit.
I mentioned Turkey and Japan as rising players on the world stage. Turkey will move away from Europe to fill the void left by Saudi Arabia. It will ally with other Islamic middle eastern nations and provide regional leadership. Japan will likely rise to forefront of green technology, perhaps especially as it relates to automobiles.
If alternative energy solutions don't meet the demand produced by declining fossil fuel supplies, one of the first modern amenities to go will be air travel. It will become extremely expensive, resulting in airline bankruptcies, leaving only specialized charter services to the rich. For the common man, traveling long distances will involve rail or hybrid motorcoach, likely at rates comparable to air travel today.
Our world will strive mightily to maintain modern medicine and information technology and the Internet, with overall success. Increased virtualization of life will be seen as one key to solving our dilemma. Do more online, less in real life.

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