Sunday, July 03, 2005

Politics: Energy For The Future

I can't help but think about it. One time, in the near future, it is quite possible, that we will, as a society, come to the end of cheap abundant energy. I'm talking about Peak Oil first, then Peak Gas, and finally Peak Coal (which is of course, some time in the future!). Of course, no one is able to accurately predict when, and how gradual the decline will be. Some say that PO is imminent within the next 5 years. At best, even the optimists are saying 30 years is possible.

I am a bit of an optimist, so I like to think that the doomsayers are getting this wrong, that if we can absorb the impact intact, then we have a chance to manage the 'powerdown' phase. It would only be possible if we are expecting it, and have made the necessary adjustments. No doubt, it would still be a major undertaking, which would change society in unknown ways.

So what can we expect from a power downed world? Unfortunately, I'm really not sure. But I am sure that the extent to which we can maintain the good elements of our society is directly proportional to the immediacy at which we tackle this issue. I.e. We need to start thinking, talking and doing right now. Every day, month and year we wait is risking everything.

Maybe they're all wrong. Maybe the folks at the US Department Of Energy are right. The world's oil producers may well have accurately reported their current reserves, and everything is indeed under control. I hope so, but I don't feel so confident.. It's just a feeling though, so don't quote me! Issues related to the reserve reporting process are numerous, however, and are another topic entirely!

So what hope is there? The hope is that as a community we can rally together, and create a future that is sustainable. I have noted that the PO meme is now starting to enter the collective (at least, in the financial papers), and so I hope that we will soon see a growing awareness in a way similar to the 'green bag' meme that has recently swept Adelaide.

Unfortunately, the similarities end there! The green bag movement seems to have been effective because ultimately it is a small step that barely hampers our lifestyle. What is required to mitigate PO is much more, and will indeed affect our day to day living.

So much of our efforts involve consuming or transforming energy. So much so that perhaps we forget the extent to which this is so. Whether it is food, grown far away, transported, prepared, served, or eaten, or water, collected, pumped, and channeled to us in its many myriad forms, we rely on these essential human resources, that are all totally tied to the use of energy. Further to this, there is clothing, housing, and the other essential commodities we rely on each day. These are the things that we will need to ensure can continue in some form, if we are to survive in a reasonable condition.

It seems that the current governments both here in South Australia and federally are relying on Coal for our future energy needs. Fair enough, I suppose. You can't pretend that we have another solution. As much as I wish we did we simply don't have a viable alternative to supplying all of our energy needs beyond PO and PG. It's seems short sighted to forget about CO2, or argue for seqestration of the gas!

At least, not yet.. It seems there is some very exciting technology being explored in both HDR and Solar Towers, in SA and VIC respectively. I must admit to being quite excited about the ST, actually. The concept, design and prototype appear to be a very clever and likely generator of steady electricity. Right now, the plan entails a 1 km high tower, with the circumference of the MCG, and girt (sorry, couldn't resist!) by an 8 km green house 'skirt' that will collect the heat to send up the column, thus propelling large turbines within! Such a great idea, I wish I'd thought of it. Have a read!.

On the other hand, I don't know much about HDR, but it seems like it could be a good 'short term' solution - call it a stop gap measure. The only problem seems to be that hot rocks will eventually cool down.. Hence, it's not actually 'sustainable'.. Not literally, any way (it would *only* last 3000 years. Maybe you see it differently!

At least I just bought a new bike with the intention of riding to work on occasion. That's my first step in working towards a sustainable future. Now I just have to use it more!

Then all I need to do is learn to grow my own vegetables, stop driving, use less electricity and buy less!

Ugghh. I'm tired just thinking about it. No wonder most people are in denial..

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