Energy: future prospects

An American friend and I were talking recently, as we usually do, about Free Flight model design and flying, when out of the blue he wrote:

And I'm concerned about the economy. There doesn't seem to be any top end in site for the price of oil...not with China growing and consuming at its extra-ordinary rate. I've got a feeling that the USA is caught in a deadly stranglehold. We are going into debt 2 billion a day! Gas is over $2.00 and it looks as if it might hit 4 bucks by next spring. Past that price the reprocussions will be drastic with the economic structure crumbling worse than it did in the great depression of the thirties.

I replied with the following unedited, apart from turning it into a Web page, rant:

Indeed. Its not going to improve either. New Scientist,issue 2406,2nd August, 2003 did a piece on energy futures. Bleak prospects. Basically it said that:

To this I'd add:

Basically I think that the US and the UK are stuffed, maybe the US more than the UK due to its greater transport requirements. Both should be actively seeking to reduce use of all forms of transport but that won't happen with those powerful transport industry lobbies or with the way bosses like their minions to be in the office under their eye instead of working from home over broadband. Ditto a more concerted attempt to switch away from oil ASAP, but Bush is an oilman and Blair talks a mile but doesn't actually do anything. Nobody here is pushing energy saving at all.

The UK probably can't feed its current population without importing food. Horse-drawn transport too is impossible here without a return to 19th century population and city sizes. The US doesn't have the farmland to feed the required horses and hasn't since the '60s. Thats even assuming that farms are not needed to feed people. Now knock off all the areas that require major pumped irrigation and other energy inputs for farming or for people to live there: much of the Californian farmland, virtually everybody living in Arizona, the Columbia Valley. None of the latter are show stoppers but would cause major problems, like mass resettlement of the blue-rinses and/or another Dust bowl.

Why do you think I'm reckoning on moving to NZ sooner rather than later? It will take a big hit too, but at least there's enough farmland (I think) and a small enough population to use horses for transport as well as feed people. In addition there's local coal to run the railway and, as I said above, the country's power supply is still largely hydro. Its even got enough oil, maybe, for lubrication but certainly none for anything else. Roll on the bicycle economy.

Sorry to let fly with such a depressing diatribe, but you pressed the GO button on something I've been thinking a lot about recently.

Here's to the New World Order! America... just another third world country!

We'll all be third world countries soon. Its just that the current crop have rather more recent practise at doing it.

Martin Gregorie, May 2005

[1] Bob is an aerospace engineer who pointed out that high output fuel cells, meaning 40 kW or more, have shown little or no change since the Apollo space program. In other words they are still essentially mid 1960s technology.