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Location: Stevens Point, Wisconsin, United States

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

What's to come...

Last month well-known environmental author Bill McKibben discussed some books on current energy policy in the New York Review. In this month’s issue a retired physicist points out that the worldwide use of fossil fuels--petroleum, coal, methane--now approximates 10,000 million tons of oil [MTO] annually. At the present 2% average growth in fossil-fuel use per year worldwide, that total will reach 20,000 MTO in about 40 years. The estimated global total of fossil fuels is 770,000 MTO. So the finite supply of fossil fuels--forms of carbon buried more than 150M years--will be exhausted within 50 years. It’s easy to imagine the steep increases in costs as extraction becomes more difficult--many “oil spills” like the BP blowout in the Gulf of Mexico last year, for example--and the fighting over access to ever-more-remote or deep reserves. It strikes me that the current rancid and vicious politics--here and elsewhere--will seem a merely mild prelude to those levels of hostility. I'm picturing warfare at least as atrocious--if not as homoerotic--as that imagined by George Miller in his 1979 Mad Max, where the struggle, you may recall, was over an oil well. All this in my grandchildren’s lifetime...