A lot of people talk about alternative energy (especially to oil nowadays). Some examples are alteng
. I appreciate the care about middle-level engineering things. One can leave the details to the experts and enterpreneurs.
But a few important, highest level questions are not being asked:
- what would the cost / effort of these alternative energy methods be?
- is really so much energy needed?
These questions are interconnected.
A lot of alt energy schemes handle the subject around the current energy needs of whichever country the author is from, and how they could / could not be fulfilled with alternative energy methods.
I claim they never will be because:
- alternative energy will be more expensive
- current (western) energy levels are not needed
The first one is quite clear. Over millions of years, plants have grown, died, decayed and been compressed in deep earth, accumulating oil. At this moment over 80 million barrels (over 8 billion kg) of that oil is pumped out from underground pools every day. It's practically free energy! It can't get any cheaper than that. (And it's not gonna last millions of years with this kind of use either.) Maybe someone can make a magic invention for an even cheaper technology, but I would not count on such dreams. There is no magic bullet.
The second one can be valued partly by looking at history - energy consumption per capita has been rising steadily in almost all western countries for very long. It could theoretically also go down, and people would just return to previous "state of existence" or "standard of living". (That were possible if done with style, and requires more lengthy handling in another post.)
So, what if energy consumption was halved in western countries?
If done right, I bet there would still be food for everyone.
Sure, the GDP would drop to around half, economists would cry madly and a lot of people would have to shift jobs from drawing fancy lines in an office to weeding on a cabbage farm, but who cares? We would still be alive and would have ways to express ourselves, have family and friend relations and all that important stuff. I don't know if we would be so unhappy. At least in the end, our kids could adapt to the situation.
If things go to the worse, energy production would drop a lot more, more quickly and the infrastructure couldnt adapt and a lot of people would starve to death. I don't know if this is likely. It should be studied more.
Feel free to comment!