Monday, February 21, 2011

Shell oil projects long energy crisis in future

Shell Oil projects that shortages of fuel (peak oil, etc.) will lead to hugely serious social problems in the 2020-2030 time frame.  After that, around 2030, these problems will be resolved.

Here is one quotation from the FT article:

High domestic prices and exceptionally demanding standards imposed by governments provoke significant advances in energy efficiency. Eventually, locally developed alternative supplies -- biofuels, wind, and thermal solar -- also contribute on a much greater scale than before. By 2030, healthy economic growth is restored, with particular vibrancy in the new energy sector that has received a massive stimulus to innovation through this difficult period.

I'm not so sure about any resolution by 2030.  And I hope that once we are dealing with an energy crisis for real, we no longer waste any effort on biofuels which are likely to be a niche player at best from non-food sources like cellulose waste.  And I think it's interesting that they don't highlight one of the hottest areas of technological development: photovoltaic.  The longstanding calculation has been that wind power is cheap (but fluctuating) and photovoltaic is too expensive to pay for itself.  But continuing improvements in photovoltaic seem to have no end, their production curve matches the demand curve in most areas, and everything else is catching up in price.

As for me, for the past 10 years I have bought Windtricity and for the last 4 years I run my entire house on 100% Windtricity.  As a result of people like me, Texas is a leader in wind energy production.

You can probably do the same: buy "green power" of some kind from your utility.  It's a lot cheaper than doing your own rooftop (though I intend to do that real-soon-now) or backyard generation.  It would be nice if governments could simply mandate increasing renewable shares...but that doesn't seem to be happening very fast.

I can't understand the negativity about wind power that seems to have arisen recently but echoing old falsehoods.  Up to a certain level, say 20% of total generation, wind power can simply be added to power utility to displace fossil fuel usage.  Beyond some level, you need to start developing energy storage and demand management systems.  Those sorts of things will need doing in the future in any case.

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