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Friday, July 03, 2015

The End of the Oil Age

Norman Pagett writes in The End of the Oil Age:

But how can we define an oil age? It has been about 150 years since the first deep oilwells were sunk, and just over 200 years since the viable steam engine was developed. The two are linked, because the steam engine made deep drilling of oilwells possible and gave us access to a hundred million years worth of fossilized sunlight. Perhaps we have not strictly had an oil age, but rather the first and only age where we enjoy vast amounts of surplus energy that we have extracted from hydrocarbon fuels, of which oil is the most energy dense. It has brought us material wealth, and the means to indulge in wholesale killing of each other and all other species. It gave excesses of food and a population that consumed that food and grew to five or six times the sustainable level of the planet. In the timespan of human existence, the ascendance of modern industrialised man has been a short flash of light and heat that has briefly lifted us out of the mire of the middle ages, but at a considerable cost to the environment.

Pagett is another gloom-and-doomer who explains why the old growth model is totally busted. And, what that means for our species. But, is the ultimate outcome of our civilization to fail miserably? The probability seems high, but humans over history have shown that last-minute saves are our speciality. Perhaps when faced with extinction, we will change our model to fit the environment. Moreover, we may be able to change our environment to fit within it. Perhaps we can find a “living wage” that doesn't doom us to fall back into the Dark Ages.

One part of our solution is what Kent Moors calls “Space Energy.” Planet Earth is surrounded in space by vast amounts of energy. If we could tap this energy, it would dwarf the amounts we extract from the ground in the form of fossil fuels. Moreover, it's highly likely that we are going to tap this infinite source of power in the next few decades. Thus, one problem is solved: unlimited, virtually-free energy for our use, replacing dirty fuel with clean, sustainable energy. As Dr. Moors points out, Albert Einstein didn't win his Nobel Prize for relativity. He won it for “Space Energy.” Now, 110 years later, we are on the verge of “Space Energy” taking the lead in energy and eliminating fossil fuels entirely.