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Challenges For The 21st Century - Energy Consumption

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There are a number of 'big ticket items' which we are hearing more about and which are likely to affect our lifestyles in a major way as the 21st century advances. Examples include population levels, food, water, global warming and resources (especially energy). In this thread I'm looking at energy consumption as consensus is building that energy availability may well provide the first of the 21st century's major challenges.

As has been discussed recently on other threads on this forum oil availability is unlikely to grow significantly from current levels; on the contrary quite a number of us, especially those in the industry independent from 'big oil' believe we are almost at (or even past) the global production peak and that supplies will soon start to forever decline. Against this background we have the UK Gov't and industry preparing for further fossil fuel hungry projects such as new major road schemes and a massive expansion of aviation; the same applies in many other nations, not least in China and India with their vast populations starting to use energy on a big scale for the first time.

Something doesn' t add up here - the current course on which we are embarked will effectively lead to a head-on clash with geology i.e. in the absence of major and early mitigation to wean us off our addiction to oil (and gas) consumption Nature will simply make the adjustments for us....and they are highly unlikely to take the form that politicians and individuals might desire! Gov't thinking on this issue appears to be 'business as usual'; in other words do nothing until the crisis is upon us. This report commissioned by the US Gov't confirms that inaction is extremely unwise and that major mitigation steps need to be implemented at least 10 (and preferably 20) years prior to oil output peaking: Hirsch Report

In the absence of any Gov't inspired action plan a number of us have been looking at what steps we can take to prepare for future energy 'shocks'. These are most relevant to this forum as they affect where we live in relation to work, how we travel, how we prepare financially to cope with a greatly changed economy (and a lot more besides). Jeffrey Brown, a petroleum geologist has written a short paper describing lifestyle adjustments (written for US but much applies similarly to UK): ELP Plan

IMO we will face a completely new energy environment within a very few years, certainly long before a 25 year mortgage taken out today expires. Here's just a few points to be considered for a situation where rising energy consumption (in China etc) is not met by supply growth and we thus face an enforced per capita reduction in consumption i.e. an energy descent scenario:

1. Need to live close to workplace i.e. within walking or cycling distance or short transit ride.

2. Local shops, schools, services etc

3. Heating costs will rise - need energy efficient homes

4. Buy locally sourced food wherever possible - from farmers' markets etc.

5. Re-establish the habbit of repairing equipment once again - the end of cheap oil will phase out the 'throwaway society'.

6. Reduce / eliminate debt as current high paying jobs in the 'discretionary economy' will either pay less or disappear.

7. Don't rely on house prices going up due to demand / demographics - demand only exists from those in work who can afford the prices!

8. Try to acquire skills / move career from the discretionary economy to essential items / services - food, energy, trades, repairs etc.

9. Avoid non essential spending if one is already in debt.

10. Expect food and energy prices to rise and prices of energy-hungry items (such as SUV's) to fall.

Above is just a 'quick list'; there are whole websites devoted to such matters.

If we are wrong about the advent of peak oil it will only be about the timing; the event is certain to occur. If we start to take some of the above measures ahead of energy becoming more expensive / less available it will leave us fitter and better off. In any event we will be better prepared to face the coming energy challenge.

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I fancy being a bike repair mechanic......

summer 2003 was around 3 celsius above climatology, and the elevated temperature level of intake water at nuclear reactors nearly caused shutdowns of reactors in france and germany.

the summer of 2003 will be normal by 2040 and will be regarded as cool by 2060 according to the met office.

Edited by WSG

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