One of the greatest facing the world in the next 5 decades will be that of dwindling oil and gas supplies and the problem of supplying energy to meet our requirements.
The world we live in is becoming more and more power hungry. As quickly as we find new sources of supply they are eating away. The cost is, and will, continue to escalate as stocks fall lower and lower. One of our biggest problems is that as more countries increase in prosperity their energy requirements increase at a far greater rate.
Increasing global prosperity for all means more factories, in more countries, and more power supplies to feed them. This leads to higher standards of living, eventually, for the people employed and higher energy requirements. We keep inventing newer ways to use energy but fewer ways to provide it.
In certain areas of the world solar power will be a very cheap and efficient alternative to fossil fuels. Wind power can generate some but not enough power. Harnessing the sea could also help but again only in a limited way.
Current dependency on dwindling oil and gas supplies should mean that our governments should be planning now for the future. They should be investing heavily in alternative technologies. They should be trying to find new ways of meeting our energy needs and reducing our dependancy on current forms.
This is happening to a limited extent. GE would not be investing in wind turbines if it didn’t see a profitable future. One thing I know about GE, after 5 years working with them, is that they never miss an emerging trend. If they can see a way of increasing their growth by 20% a year they’ll take it.
The current difficulties between Russia and its neighbours is a taste of things to come. They have supplies that others need and rely on. They have reserves of gas and oil greater than the Middle East combined. Yet they know how to put pressure on others to get a return.
So what do we need to do?
Yes, we need to be more energy efficient in our own lives. Every bit helps. However we also need to look at ourselves and our firmly held beliefs.
One of the difficulties facing wind power is he effect on the visual environment. Yes, we want an alternative source of supply. Then someone proposes a wind farm near us and everyone hates the imahe of vast turbines spoiling the view and creating noise and visual pollution.
We have the nuclear option. This is a working technology but has dangers of its own. Breakdowns could lead to a catastrophic accident, as at Chernobyl or Three Mile Island. What do we do with the waste?
Could we see a resurgence in the coal industry? One Labour MP in South Wales is already advocating this. Do we want to see our valleys return to the environmental disaster areas they used to be? I remember South Wales when every hilltop had its own slag heap and would not like to see that again.
Yet what other alternatives are there?
The government is currently beginning a major review of the UK energy policy for the next 20-30 years. Many are expecting the nuclear option to feature as a major part of this.
We need to sit down and think about what we want for our future and for that of our children. We need to make sure that the government hears the views of the people who elect them. Long after they’ve gone we’ll be dealing with the fallout (hopefully not literally) of their decisions.
This is a major review that will efffect the lives of everyone in the UK, and also elsewhere as all countries will have to deal with the problem.
Places such as Sweden and Brazil are already ahead of us and we need to insure that we begin to find a way to combine our needs with those of our world. What’s the good of listening to MP3 players, watching TV and cooking with gas, if we destroy our world?