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
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