Fighting nature- what will happen when the fossil fuel and uranium runs out?

What will we do when the fossil fuel runs out? We seem to have no strategy for this. Obviously energy is the essential enabler for the way we now live. It provides heat and power for ourselves and our work, our homes our industries. Can anyone working in an office today imagine doing so without the electricity to power their computer or without what we have become used to as sufficient heating. Who now washes in cold water?

Almost all the energy we use whether for heat or power comes from fossil fuel and uranium and whatever you think of climate change (and remember that the forces of nature and physics operate according to established principles regardless of your opinion) one day the fossil fuel and uranium will run out.

It will not run out tomorrow or even next year or even in the next twenty years; it will run out at different times in different places and will become more expensive at first, and as it becomes scarcer nations will scramble for it. There may be wars fought over it (or perhaps more wars fought over it) and it may well be the largest factor in shifting power away from the developed nations to those nations that have fossil fuel in abundance.

All this is quite predictable and foreseeable, although subject to the caveat that we do not know when it will happen. If you own a house in a place where there are hurricanes and tempests you do not wait until just before the storm comes to put measures in place to prevent it from causing damage, but you build the house knowing that one day the hurricane will come and if it does not come, so much the better but your measures to protect the home against the storm will be in place.

The planet, in common with insurance companies does not accept after the event insurance risks, so it is important that we start now putting measures in place to enable us to cope when the fossil fuel runs out. Our use of fossil fuel is becoming unsustainable. We need to change and work with nature on the assumption that we cannot fight nature forever.

What do some of the changes I envisage we need to make entail?

We need to think about designing and planning our towns and cities so that we avoid consuming as much energy as possible. Those out of town shopping centres, which depend on cars ferrying people to them are already old fashioned. We need to be able to shop close to where we live and work close to where we live. That also means diversifying the centres of cities and towns so that they have greater numbers of residences, moving some offices to the suburbs and making closeness to work an important factor in town planning.

In our ways of life we have to start now designing all our appliances so that they use less energy than they do now. We are going through a process of doing it, but the change is slow and the imperative great. Your broadband may cost you £20 a month today but how often will you be able to use it if the energy cost of powering up your computer is two or three times the cost of the broadband service?

We need to start now investing in public transport. That means more railway lines, more underground railways and many more buses with routes designed for the convenience of the public, rather than to maximise short term profits. We need to think about using canals that we have built for the transportation of goods. In particular we need to deliver cars and other vehicles that do not accelerate to sixty miles an hour in six or seven seconds, but get there (but no faster) and a more leisurely pace, with much smaller engines, burning much less fuel as a result.

Finally, we must start investing in renewables – solar panels, photovoltaics, small wind turbines and heat pumps. These investments involve capital expenditure but they will over a period of time, provide us with useful energy when there is little to be had from fossil fuel and uranium. They do not depend on a resource that will be depleted in sixty or seventy years from now, but on a resource that will last us as long as we can imagine – the very forces of nature – the sun, the winds and the tides, that we are fighting against right now, rather than deploying.



4 Responses

  1. the only option is to properly harness the power of the elements.

    surely with solar energy the limitation is the amount of sunlight

    but sunlight only stops when it is absorbed by something (i.e. your panels)

    If you can find a way to keep it moving or multiply it(i.e by using crystals or prisms), you’ll end up with the energy you require to be sustainable

    ps if i end up leading you to a way to produce this I want 10% of profit to fund Leks orphanages

    if you check out my blog we’re back on the 19th and meeting at the Jolly Farmers in Purley at 2000, be nice to see you there

  2. There is talk of the Germans stock pilling broken glass in huge open cast pits for many years now, one idea is to set up some kind of solar complex in the hotter countries of Europe to supply some of their energy needs and use existing pylon transport.

    Water power is one of the best way we could get quite a lot of our energy, in our area there used to be 15 mills in a mile stretch of the river, if we had many more smaller generating plants they would all soon add up, after the water was used it could be put back into the waterways.

    If a few plants went down for servicing say, nothing would be noticed, take out a main station and all sorts of problems would come to bare, if the hospitals never had any fuel to run the generators, the picture would not be a pretty one.

    As long as oil is cheap and profits and taxes are good we will not do very much which will make real changes if we did the larger companies would loose the greater part of their purse and without the high tech lubrication needed for our heavy industries would grint to a complete halt within 48 hours, the vedgetable based oils would simply fail under the pressures involved.

    The real problems for the end of oil and a population of around 9 billion by 2050 is food, most of the greater yeilds which are only possible with amonia based fertilisers, there will be no way to run the huge machinery needed to work the land, fertilise the crops and there will be a lot of hungry people, take away three of their meals and civilisation as we know would come to a rather sticky weak end.

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