Monday, July 7, 2008

Renewable Energy or How I Learned To Love A World Without Oil

In Dr Strangelove or "How, I Learnt to stop worrying and Love the Bomb", we see the crazy potential of a nuclear war become a reality. Our economies have become so dependent on oil, it seems equally crazy that we could live without oil; thus rising oil prices spark an instinctive fear, especially amongst oil importers. However, a world without oil is not only possible, but, at some time an inevitability. Rather than fighting a losing battle, this is how we can learn to welcome a post-oil economy.

The Motor Car is Not everything.

The arrival of the motor car was welcomed with an unquestioning enthusiasm. It gave a new freedom to a whole generation of people. But, in the rush to accommodate the motor car, we have created an unbalanced transport system with many drawbacks
  • Firstly, car accidents are one of the world's biggest killers. It is the most common killer of young men in the UK.
  • It contributes to global warming which is causing severe environmental damage.
  • Congestion blights most city centres leading to an inefficient allocation of resources. Average speed of travel in London (7mph) [link] this is as slow now as it was in the nineteenth century when we used the horse and cart. So much for progress...
Instead of the motor car, people are realising the benefits of cycling. Good health, less pollution, fun and often much quicker. See: Amsterdam at rush hour.

In the US, the rise in oil prices has come as a shock. For the first time higher prices are forcing many to consider public transport; this has equally been a shocking experience. The rise in demand for public transport has only highlighted how poor public transport is in the US; not surprising after years of underinvestment in favour of promoting the motor car.
Rather than rely on cars, we can make much greater use of public transport.

Energy can be provided by other means

There was a time we relied on the horse and cart, then came the steam engine. We did not run out of horses or coal, we just found better methods. There is no reason why we cannot find alternatives to petrol and oil. In fact, the alternatives are already there, they just need investment to help reduce their operating costs and make them as attractive as oil.
  • Solar power
  • Hydrogen energy
  • Electricity from renewable resources such as wind, tidal energy.
At the moment, as the King of Saudi Arabia pointed out, renewable resources are still more expensive than oil. But, we should never underestimate the power of technology to reduce costs. The issue is that we shouldn't wait for market forces and oil companies to give it sufficient investment. This is one area where government intervention is justified to overcome the market failure of insufficient investment.

Reducing the Power of OPEC Countries is no Bad Thing

At the moment, most western economies are dependent on importing from OPEC countries primarily in the middle east. (Supplies in the US and UK, already show signs of decline) Rising oil prices only increase the economic and political leverage of oil exporting countries. The sooner we can reduce our dependency on oil importing countries the better. It will also help to redistribute income throughout the world.

Environment

We are learning, perhaps too late that consumption of oil creates carbon emissions which are causing a destabilising impact on the environment. Perhaps most pressing is the issue of global warming. The consequences cannot be brushed off, as some would like to do; there is increasing evidence that global warming is promoting rogue weather patterns which will cause tremendous harm. Switching to renewable energy will reduce the excess carbon emissions which are causing so many problems.

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1 comment:

D. Dyer said...

The arrival of the motor car was welcomed with an unquestioning enthusiasm. It gave a new freedom to a whole generation of people.
It also solved a huge problem of pollution in urban areas where thousands of horses and mules pulling wagons were creating tons of manure that had significant detrimental effects on health, the environment, etc.
There is no reason why we cannot find alternatives to petrol and oil. In fact, the alternatives are already there, they just need investment to help reduce their operating costs and make them as attractive as oil.
Doom-and-gloomers like Paul Erlich have predicted the end of oil since the 70s. They have been wrong every time. Despite their dire predictions the known oil reserves continued to increase in each of the last four decades.
We are learning, perhaps too late that consumption of oil creates carbon emissions which are causing a destabilising impact on the environment.
There has been no definitive proof offered to substantiate this claim. It is based on hypotheses drawn from very questionable models.
...there is increasing evidence that global warming is promoting rogue weather patterns which will cause tremendous harm.
There is also increasing evidence that these are natural cycles, not man-made, that occur over hundreds or thousands of years. Visit www.cato.org or www.junkscience.org for alternative viewpoints.
Finally, if you believe global warming is man-made, step up to the plate and prove it and you can win a $500,000 prize! Just go to http://ultimateglobalwarmingchallenge.com/