Samantha B asked in EnvironmentGreen Living · 9 years ago

Will renewable energy sources be able to catch up before we run out of fossil fuels?

Considering our main energy source is oil and estimates for the time of peak oil production vary from a few years ago to ten to twenty years in the future, the fact remains that it's an eventuality that we will run out sooner or later. Without mechanized agriculture, the carrying capacity of the earth has been estimated to only be about 2 billion and change, so are we set up for a Malthusian catastrophe, or do you think that we will be able to compensate with emerging renewable energy?

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  • 9 years ago
    Best Answer

    Hey Samantha, your question touches on a common theme today, but to see how it will play out, take a quick look at retirement. A couple today might live comfotably on say $75,000 USD annual income, but they are concerned whether their savings will be able to replace their work income when they retire. It doesn't matter how many calculators you visited online, the day they walk out the door from work for the last time, they simply retire on whatever they have. In short order they will get their house in order to function on the lot that is available to them. Energy is no different. Because we use 5.5 gazillion kilowatthours of electricity today does not mean we need that much tomorrow. As oil gets harder and harder to find and recover, the price goes up, which adds value to renewable sources, which makes them more commonplace, and they slowyly replace the fossil based energy anyway. This does not mean there is no advantage to preparing for the change now, but different people see the situation differently, just like retirement.

    Brazil is a good case in point. Several years ago they operated the second largest offshore oil platform in the world, until it caught fire one day, fell over and sank into the ocean. That one well represented 50% of thier countries domestic oil production, nothing short of a catastrophe. Yet today, they have a growing economy and use more energy than they did back then. They run their vehicles on 90% ethanol, based on their rich sugan cane industry, and make so much fuel with it today that they have to ship their excess to the United States. In this change in energy that we are currently experiencing, there are as many opportunities as there are problems, but most people don't see them because they don't have to.

    Here is what we have done: About 11 years ago we embarked on a project to convert our home to wind and solar power. Now our home makes 90% of its own electricity and our electric bills come in at about $5 per month. We have replaced both of our vehicles over time with more efficient ones and altered out driving habits slightly. Now we use less than 900 gallons of gas each year instead of the 1150 we used to. Our next vehicle will be a plug in hybrid of some kind, and we are already in the process of expanding the solar array to provide at least part of the additional electric power we'll need to run that car when it arrives. Half of our hot water comes from our solar water heater, and our primary source of heat is now wood and passive solar. I talk to people all the time about energy and they ask, "What can we do about it?" The answer is, "Plenty." But again, it comes down to perception and an individuals willingness to make changes. We can wait until retirement to see how it looks then, or get ready for it now. Collectively, we'll probably end up someplace in the middle. As for the carrying capacity of the earth, what has probably gotten us into these situations in the first place is our population. We can always alter our lifestyle to accomodate more people, but that makes overall life here less convenient no matter how it's done since we all end up with less in the end. As far as nuclear power being the answer, yes, Illinois does have 11 plants, and the second highest utility rates in North America. Nuclear is one of the answers, but the economics of it have never made sense historically regardless of what your postiion is on nuclear waste.

    Renewable energy is up to the task, but most of us won't be until we have to. For those of us getting ahead of the change, we would love to have you join us and help. I'll list some websites below you might find interesting. Good luck Samantha, and take care, Rudydoo

    Source(s): American Wind Energy Association AWEA.ORG Midwest Renewable Energy Association MREA.ORG Solar Energy International, Solarenrgy.org Home Power Magazine, Homepower.com Wind Power for Home and Business by Paul Gipe, library
  • Mike
    Lv 5
    9 years ago

    There is more oil here in the US than in the middle east. We just don't drill for it due to the tax structure and the environmentalists. There is enough oil easily last the next three generations and then some.

    Unfortunately, no push for an alternative energy will happen until some organization or company can develop a cost effective feasible technology and not be bought out by the oil companies...

  • Anonymous
    9 years ago

    Yes we can . We can almost over night if we really wanted too . The main thing holding us back is greed . Our technology is far more advanced then most people realize . When a new technology does show it face the oil companies will drop there price so that you stay with them . When the time comes that we do have to use alternatives there shouldn't be any problems switching but we would all have to pull together and i believe it would open many new jobs ,

  • 9 years ago

    even after we run out of oil there's 300 years or so of coal in the ground.......to make electricity to run electric cars, farm machinery, etc.

    Is this a good thing? Probably not.

    There is also nuclear energy but the Luddites and Eco fascists don't want it.

    The real problem with running out of oil is not that we wont have gasoline to burn but we wont have oil for lubrication or the basis for fertilizers and the whole chemical industry.....

    and to say we could "overnight" switch to alternative energy betrays a lack of understanding of the size of the problem and basic physics

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  • David
    Lv 7
    9 years ago

    we have a mature renewable energy source. nuclear power reactors. the press has vilified them for forty years. people are completely ignorant of their capabilities, and believe(wrongly) that they are dangerous. uranium doesn,t even have to be mined. breeder reactors can supply an unlimited amount of enriched reactor fuel. the fuel cannot be weaponised. the reactors can,t go "chernobyl". modern reactor designs can only stop functioning if they experience coolant loss. only positives here. waste by products can successfully be decontaminated . whatever negative things that have become"gospel" are always wrong. illinois has eleven reactors. france has 87% of their electrical power generated by nuc plants. even vietnam is going to build reactors, rather than burn coal.

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