In The Future We'll All Be Using Less Energy

Friday, July 05, 2013

The International Energy Agency believes that peak oil is dead, according to Time.com. But at least one scientist is saying "not so fast."

Science Omega ran an interview with Kjell Aleklett, Professor in Global Energy Systems and President of the Association for the study of Peak Oil and Gas. And while the IEA seems content to focus on the fact that we've found new technologies to help extract more oil, Aleklett is focusing on the total picture.

The "total picture" includes an increase in the demand for oil on a global scale. While American millennials may not be as quick to buy cars as other generations have been, markets like China and India are increasing their demand.

One might also care to take the methods themselves into account, since many of these new methods have proven to be toxic and drastically unsafe. The Arkansas oil spill saw toxic sludge rolling right across the cul-de-sac to knock on people's front doors, and if it had happened even half an hour later, neighborhood children would have been outside playing just in time to be struck with conditions they might never have recovered from. 

Aleklett suggests preparing for more "locally-oriented" systems. He targeted food production in particular, which is admittedly a nice place to start. The number of miles the typical tomato travels from farm to table is a staggering 1000 to 1500, which is not precisely sustainable.

He also discussed some of the reasons why change isn't always happening successfully.

"If society is aware of what it needs to achieve, planning for this eventuality should not pose a problem. Problems arise because there are so many stakeholders who are unwilling to change. They refuse to take the actions that are necessary because they don't want to jeopardize their profits.

...We need to adjust our habits in order to adapt to lower energy consumption...We must accept the fact that in the future, we will be using significantly less energy than we do today."

Though not specifically mentioned in the Science Omega article, it's clear that smart transit options need to be part of those adjusted habits. Safe bike paths, bike shares, car shares, good light rail systems and a reliable bus fleet would all make a significant impact on our ability to use significantly less energy in a way that's feasible for everyone.