World Leaders Needed: The Future of Oil and Everything Else
Today's post is inspired by an engineer, details of which I'll get to later.
Energy is the future. Our future depends on energy. Many people in the developing world spend much of their time thinking about and acquiring it. Firewood and food. Most people in the developed world spend little or no time thinking about or acquiring energy. An apparently endless supply of energy is assumed to be as certain as the sun rising tomorrow. Only a tiny proportion of us even consider this assumption, let alone question it.
And yet oil, gas and coal are finite and will run out (at least in economically significant and useful quantities). The end of cheap oil will arguably occur within a few short decades, if it is not already upon us. When I was at school I remember being told that oil would run out in a few decades. I remember feeling vaguely concerned, until it occurred to me that people much smarter than me must be working on it and would have a solution soon.
A few decades later I am wondering where these people are.
The answer of course is they live amongst us. Engineers, economists, bloggers, scientists, activists, and entrepreneurs. And yet at the moment most are not focused on solutions to our energy challenges, because many are not aware there is a problem.
Much of the mass media promotes materialism with shows such as MTV Cribs showing bigger and bigger houses with garages full of cars. Indeed here in the UK there seems to be one channel whose non-music programming is made up almost entirely of half hour shows titled "the fabulous life of" which seem dedicated to the worship of conspicuous consumption.
Most of our politicians seem dedicated to the "not in my term" mentality.
And yet despite our general lack of awareness, despite the scale of the challenges, the potential payoffs for coming up with solutions are huge.
For the companies and entrepreneurs who bring solutions to market there are bound to be significant financial rewards. Beyond this there is the prospect of a more peaceful world. I'm not proposing a utopian vision of a world where everyone lives in perfect harmony. However it is pretty easy to predict that having people compete over scarce resources is likely to result in conflict. Clean renewable energy offers the prospect of countries spending more time cooperating to harness the power of the sun, wind and ocean and less time competing over finite resources.
If the developed world stands to benefit from this, the developing world has even more to gain. Rather than experiencing the dirt and pain of industrialisation, renewable energy may allow them to leapfrog ahead.
As individuals it is time to become aware of our energy usage and its implications. Make our homes more energy efficient, switch to a renewable electricity supplier, generate some or all of our own power using means such as solar panels or mini wind turbines.
However it is not enough to act just as individuals. For humanity to move forward it is not about being more virtuous than everyone else. It is not about pointing fingers and assigning blame to drivers of certain types of car, people of a particular political affiliation or even to whole nations and continents. It is about building on what we can agree on and seeking consensus. We may not agree on the right solution but that's okay because there won't be one single solution - it will be a combination of many - it's more important to agree on a direction. A clean renewable, post fossil fuel future.
It is about informing, persuading, inspiring and influencing those around us. Our friends, neighbours, colleagues, society and the world at large.
Which brings me to the inspiration for this piece - a post by the Engineer Poet looking at the future of aviation once the cheap oil has run out and the discussion continuing in the comments section. It's just one example of people coming together to focus not on the problem, but on possible solutions.