River Wissey Lovell Fuller

The Village Soapbox

November 2004

Oil has become a predominat issue in our modern world


Headlong towards the cliff edge?

Travelling on the M25 the other day and seeing the endless and everlasting stream of vehicles, all rushing to God knows where, I had an image in my mind of people rushing like lemmings towards disaster. I marvelled at the thought that this picture was replicated all day every day, all over the country and all over the western world. I thought of the way in which China and India, with their huge populations, are developing rapidly and following the same route. Not only in transport, industry in general is expanding on a world basis and it is all largely based on oil. The demand for oil is increasing rapidly at the same time as this strictly limited resource is becoming more scarce. And yet the 'world', including you and me, is pressing headlong towards the precipice, nobody is touching the brakes or attempting to change direction. No one knows for sure how much recoverable oil remains underground, or the rate at which it can be produced. Without doubt however, the time when the demand will exceed the ability of the producers to keep up is not far away. Gas is in a similar situation.

There are alternatives to oil and gas, e.g. nuclear, coal and renewables:

Controlled nuclear fusion may be a source one day, but not yet. Power from nuclear fission has its problems of course, nevertheless it is clean and does not pollute the atmosphere. It has been used successfully for several decades, France now produces 76% of its electricity from nuclear power stations and exports electricity to a greater value than its export of cheese or wine.

World consumption of coal is increasing and coal production is now greater than ever before. Large stocks of coal remain, however, especially in the UK, but we need further development in extraction methods and processing techniques. Liquid fuels from coal are a practical possibility. Unfortunately coal, being largely carbon, does produce more CO2 than other fossil fuels.

Renewables, be they wind, solar, waves, tidal or biomass, all suffer from a low intensity so that utilisation on the scale required presents major difficulties.

Whatever we are going to do I would have thought that it was a matter of urgency for the government to be taking some action. They are taking some action, of course, they are encouraging the building of wind turbines which will make little or no difference to the problem of a replacement for oil and have absolutely no significant effect on the hypothetical cause of global warming. Meanwhile the precipice is just over the hill and we are heading straight for it.

Ron Watts

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