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What global energy crisis?

Tuesday, 2 December 2008 — by

Predicting future technology trends doesn’t get more expensive. The global energy economy hangs in the balance, and smart people have to make some exceptionally important decisions — how are we going to power planet Earth in the future, once fossil fuels run out?

We humans are a damned predictable lot; only when faced with the prospect of losing everything do we act appropriately. The hastening energy crisis is just such a prospect, one that could effortlessly strip us of our technological prowess, nudging those that “have” back several centuries, down there with those that “have not”, most probably economically, financially, socially and culturally, too.

But aside from all of the verbose rhetoric and political posturing, the most powerful and provocative message to the average European or American citizen comes in the form of a simple question: what would you do if you couldn’t put fuel in your car?

Feel free to substitute “car” for some other equally indispensable item and the outcome would probably be the same: what if you couldn’t charge your cell / mobile phone? Or: what if you couldn’t power up your computer?

Thankfully, I am not amongst those who have to decide where whole economies need to invest time, money and effort in which newly emerging energy source. Fortunately, I just get to sit here and ask “What if?” with no fear of my prognostications amounting to naught.

But someone has to. And if I did have a say, I’d gather together the leaders of all the major nations and demand that they make extraordinary financial provision to fund research & development into renewable energy sources.

Indeed, all over Britain, locations for wind farms are being decided, while entire tracts of the waters around British shores are being marked as additional sites, too. In warmer climates, the sun is a readily available source of energy, one largely untapped. But not for long.

The mainstream news is a capricious animal, picking up Britney Spears miming on live TV, yet missing the news that the very, very clever people at MIT have made an energy storage discovery which could lead to unlimited solar power:

“The process, loosely based on plant photosynthesis, uses solar energy to split water into hydrogen and oxygen gases. When needed, the gases can then be re-combined in a fuel cell, creating carbon-free electricity whether the sun is shining or not.”

Britney Spears won’t power your car, or charge your mobile phone. MIT’s discovery most probably will. But this is just one of many, many novel sources of energy scientists around the world are quickly discovering.

And herein lies the future of this Earth, one not reliant on any one source of energy. Thankfully, it is a future mostly free of cartels, artificially limiting production of fuels, while aggressively inflating the price of what they allow to be sold.

The future power democracy

The signs are already here of a democratization of energy production.

Because we’re now looking at different, renewable and highly fault-tolerant, often isolated methods of “off grid” energy production, the cabals and cartels running the energy empires of today will enjoy only short-term prosperity in the near future.

Over the long-term, energy production will become dirt cheap and abundant. So abundant that, if my theory is correct, controlling any energy source will be almost pointless, since no one energy source will ever be more significant — either technologically or economically — than any other.

Of course, shares in the water utilities will see a dramatic new lease of life…

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Comment and be known

Ed Richardson → Tuesday, 2 December 2008 @ 18:56 BDT

It’s an interesting area, that’s only going to grow in importance as we all become more and more dependant on electricity. Forget about a dependence on Google, electricity is our real master in this day and age.

As with most politically hot subjects it likely not to be addressed sufficiently until it is all too late. At which point we will all be playing a very expensive catch up game, at the tax payers expense. Ironic isn’t it.

Were politics not the stupid beast it is, we could have transparency to resolve these issues now, before it comes too expensive.

But we’re a fickle race and we’d all much rather concentrate on what’s going on right now and for that matter, whether or not Britney was miming.

Power crises are already gripping developed countries such as South Africa. We’ve had numerous warnings in the UK of an energy gap that will occur in about 2015-2020 when a number of power stations go off-line before replacements are planned to be running.

But if we just bury our heads a little deeper in the sand, perhaps we won’t be able to hear those rumours any longer.

Sorry Comments are close. Quite possibly for a good reason. Share your thoughts on some of my other posts or contact me directly.

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