Sunday, November 19, 2006


There has been a lot of talk about the use of petroleum lately. How much it pollutes the atmosphere, how limited the supply is (I've heard 10 years before we run out), and how dependant we are on it. So there has been increased talk over the past two years over how we as a population can ameliorate these issues. It's been something I have been spending much time thinking about and I have some observations or at least questions. I'll try to touch on some of them, but I'm sure it's a subject I'll come back to.

It is staggering to think of how dependant we are on energy generated by petroleum. Personal transport, material transport, air travel, and heavy industry (construction comes to mind).

Although technological steps have been made toward decreasing petroleum usage in the personal transport arena, people using that technology is a small minority of the population. It is disheartening that it takes government subsidies for people to feel it is financial acceptable to buy green.

Material transport such as trucks and trains will likely be replaced by the same technology used by cars or over to electricity for trains. Though adding power lines to the millions of miles of railroads in North America would be a HUGE task. My guess is material transport would take a huge hit and we would return to local foods and products. Or at least, that's my hope.

I really can't imagine what could replace jet fuel. Will our world of jumping on a jet to travel half-way around the globe disappear? It would be turning the clock back a few decades, but it would really change the world to have limited air travel again just as accessible air travel changed the world.

I also wonder about heavy industry such as construction which relies on mobile equipment. Will that turn back the clock also? Someone suggested a move toward battery power, but that begs the next question. If even half of the petroleum powered machines were replaced by electric powered machines, where is all the power going to come from.

Right now petroleum is getting the finger pointed at it, but if petroleum is taken out of the equation, what could possibly replace it. Electricity seems the logical answer, but how will it be generated. Wind, solar, tides, gravity, geothermal are quickly becoming popular. And although petroleum pollutes the air, what effect will these other forms of energy have on the environment.

Quebec gets almost all of it's energy from hydralic dams and wind turbines. But people have pointed out that the land flooded by the dams create waterborne decay of the existing plantlife that contributes greenhouse gases. What effects will these other forms of energy have on the environment. Will a planet covered in solar panels disturb effect solar energy balance on the planet similar to the deforestation of the jungles or the paving over of cities? Will stealing energy from the earth disrupt it's balance in some detrimental way?

In the end, it boils down to us. We are a rapidly growing population that gets more energy hungry by the day. Things will have to change. In many ways it seems we will have to step back in time because that's the model of lower energy use that we know. But innovation will step in. We may need be more energy efficient, but new ways of living will be created. And that is what excites me when I think about the extinction of petroleum usage. We will return to a more nature friendly way of living. I am excited to see what innovation takes us there.

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