The Energy Issue

 

I highly doubt that you need to hear me prattle on about how both energy production and consumption compose a primary issue faced by society today, and how this issue will become increasingly prominent as the stores of non-renewable natural capital that we are plundering mercilessly to fulfill our energy needs are exhausted, dried up, dug up, and crusted over.  About how meanwhile, we continue to rape our planet of exceedingly large amounts of unreplenishable energy stores at the same time as we burn our pillages, releasing ozone-damaging carbon into the atmosphere, contributing the change in global climate that will be the ultimate demise of civilization. No? I didn’t think so.

Apparently, I have adopted a somewhat pessimistic viewpoint when it comes to our planet’s energy crisis.  I assure you, I am not alone in my less-than-optimistic attitude. Michael Ruppert, subject of the 2009 documentary film Collapse, writer and theorist believes that our energy management and reliance as well as economy management are leading us to the ultimate collapse of modern civilization. He points out that since we have adopted the use of oil as our main energy resource, the population of the planet has grown by close to 5 billion. He argues that when the effects of peak oil hit and oil becomes unaffordable, the planet will no longer be able to sustain the population that grew on and heavily relies on oil for sustainment. Check out a trailer for the film below, which was an official selection of the 2009 Toronto film festival:

 

 

So what is peak oil? Has it hit? Will it hit? Answers to all three of these questions seem a confusing and ongoing debate to me. I learned in my sustainability series class that peak oil is the point where more oil reserves have been uncovered than are yet to be found. Many believe we have already hit peak oil. Some believe we will never hit peak oil. Personally, I don’t know enough about the matter to come to an informed opinion, as all information I come across regarding the issue of peak oil seems to be contradictory. What I have learned, and what I think I agree with (I am finding it increasingly difficult to develop a firm standing opinion on any matter as a n undergraduate student in a field that encompasses such controversy) is that humanity always seems to find a way to dig itself out of all of the shit- holes it falls into, through innovation.  I learned in my environmental economics class of the famous sustainability bet between Paul Ehrlich and Julian Simon, relating to a debate that has been going on for centuries. Ehrlich, writer of the book “the population bomb” argues that the resource consumption of our planet’s increasing population will cause many natural resources to become scarce or used up completely while we steadily climb toward the ultimate carrying capacity of our planet.  Simon argues that developed technology and innovation will always come through and find its  way around the scarcity of any resource. He reasoned that if a resource was actually “running out”, that it’s price should rise over a decade. To prove this, Simon bet Ehrlich that the prices of a basket of any five natural resources (of Ehrlich’s choice) would fall between the years of 1980 and 1990. It turned out that Simon won the bet; the price of every resource chosen by Ehrlic fell over the decade. If we were so sure that oil prices were going to rise over the next 10- 20 years, we could buy oil now to be sold in the future and reap the profits. Why don’t people do this? Because we’re not sure that the price of oil will rise. Given enough incentive to develop new forms of energy (such as the pressure of the rising price of oil), human innovation will pull through as it has throughout history.

 

Check this TED talk to see what Juan Enriquez thinks needs to happen in order to drive the innovation of alternative energy forward!

 

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