Energy insecurity is now a fact. The world has been relying on its long term stored reserves of sunlight since the beginning of the industrial era. Sunlight causes Photosynthesis. Photosynthesis fixes carbon from the atmosphere. The fixed carbon in plants, trees, grass and bogs become fossil fuels over geological time.
Fossil fuels are limited. The market is telling us that. A price of $1 – 2/barrel from 1900 – 1973 was replaced by a price of $12 – 18 from 1980 – 2001. That price has now become $90 – 120 per barrel. Objective analysis shows that we are at the peak of production. If the BRICS and the Next 11 are to reach parity with the developed West then it would seem like an unwise policy to base their aggressive growth on fossils.
No humans lived on earth twenty million years ago. We don’t know whether we can live here now if we pursue the policy of liberating all the locked up carbon. All energy arrives from the sun, (save geothermal and spin energy). Each day enough arrives to power all human, animal and plant systems.
We have been harvesting what was stored up to now. The great benefits of this can be seen in the West. Benefits in terms of numbers of people, happily employed and living past the “three score and ten”.
On the cost side we are heaping a growing burden on our children. Scientists now tell us we can’t control the human induced temperature rise to 2oC. Scientists are going further now. They attribute the simultaneous draughts in Russia, the floods in Pakistan, the drought in USA to GWH (human induced global warming). I find the reasoning interesting. Scientists at CERN found that there was only one chance in a million that the observed phenomena could not be explained by the Higgs Boson, therefore it was reasonable to conclude that it exists. Using similar reasoning climatologists assent that the various extreme weather events are statistically co-related to GWH.
It is about time that scientists reasserted the truth they discovered in the late 1800’s.
So energy policy formulation is carried out against this fuel price, GWH and solar availability background.
Interesting to note: Every continent has enough solar (either wind or direct solar) to power itself many times over.
The price of capturing solar energy is falling. Solar p.v. comes in at €1.4m/MW installed having stood at almost €5m four years ago.
The price of wind capture on land is falling slowly. Offshore however is where the biggest falls will be apparent.
Next blog will take these inputs as a given. We will proceed to explore the creative side of energy policy.