Saturday, April 18, 2009

Energy TODAY!

In our attempts to educate in building energy saving design, dimensioning and operation, it was more and more obvious to us, that our efforts had to be positioned in a bigger picture. To do so, we have to get in to energy production and resources, as well as other areas of energy use. Our efforts have especially large synergy and interdependence with renewable energy. Major energy savings and a more efficient use, can have very large impacts on the implementation of renewable energy.

Fossil energy runs the engines, politics and economy of the world. Today, use of fossil energy is not only wasteful, but is also destroying the environment we live in. Our use of fossil energy kills millions of people every year, by pollution, and almost all conflicts and wars the last 100 was about energy.

Fossil fuels are valuable natural energy sources which required several millions of years for their creation but are now rapidly being depleted. The prominent worry that fossil fuels will run out was reported almost 30 years ago by the influential book Limits to Growth. This book reported a series of computer simulations of future resource use in which world fuel consumption continued to rise exponentially. The predicted result was an ultimate collapse in fuel supplies, regardless of the amount of fuel assumed to be available.

At some moment during the next five years, we will have consumed more than one half of the total usable fossil oil on Earth. To date, we have extracted 807 billion barrels of crude oil. Only an estimated 995 billion barrels remain that can be extracted at current production costs. If the world-wide rate of oil consumption remained a constant 24 billion barrels of oil per year, we would run out of oil in 2040. But consumption is not static-it is increasing by about 2 percent per year. It seems clear that demand for oil will overshoot supply well before 2040. At some point between 2010 and 2025, all fuel from fossil oil will be too expensive for the average consumer to afford. Exactly when that point comes will depend largely on the actions of Middle Eastern countries.

In 1970, world-wide annual consumption of natural gas was 850 billion cubic meters. Today, annual consumption is over 2000 billion cubic meters and is increasing at 3.5 percent per year. A 3.5 percent annual increase in consumption will deplete natural gas reserves by 2050. However, the increase in consumption of natural gas is accelerating at an astonishing rate. Cheap supplies of natural gas will be depleted by 2040.

This fact is recently completely neglected by power companies which are building new natural gas power stations to give customers in their area cheaper and cleaner electricity. Experts believe that by 2010, the supply of electricity from new natural gas power facilities will jump to 100,000 megawatts in USA alone. Natural gas power plants are attractive to investors. They have relative short pay back time (an average six year in the USA) and can produce electricity for a cheap rate of two to three US cents per kilowatt-hour. It seems clear that the demand for natural gas fuel will increase in the near future but will slow down in the second half of the next century.

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