What Will Power Tomorrow?
Last night Australian current affairs program Four Corners ran a story titled ‘Peak oil?’.
It began with the proposition that we might run out of oil soon and that this could be catastrophic, but then went on to outline a range of alternatives. The program reminded me of all the useful comments in the thread following my blog post of March 8 ‘We will never run out of oil: Philip Burgess’.
Four Corners even quoted Brian Fisher from ABARE suggesting that we could liquefy coal at US$40 a barrel which is cheaper than oil from the ground now at US$70 a barrel. Of course, while it might be affordable, liquefying coal will generate lots of greenhouse gases.
I wonder how many greenhouse gases the other potential options will generate including solar, biofuels (ethanol and biodiesel including from algae), hydrogen fuel cells, CNG (natural gas/methane), oil from tar sands, oil from shale … What else could be used to power cars, trucks and tractors?
Give Sweden is confident it’s economy can become ‘independent of oil’ by 2020 I am confident the rest of the world will also manage beyond peak oil. The Swedes propose to run their cars on ethanol and generate electricity from ‘rivers and nuclear’.
Just today new environment group the Australian Environment Foundation  put out a media release stating that our energy future will be “volatile and unpredictable” and called for a “significant expansion of the federal government’s inquiry into nuclear energy, as the current review will not produce a sufficiently accurate or useful comparison between the various energy generating options.”
It’s fair to conclude that there will be a worldwide transition from oil to something else, but we don’t know how rough or smooth that transition might be, nor how imminent.
 I’m a director of the AEF.