Michael Klare, a professor of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College in Massachusetts, is getting broad circulation with his piece: Energy: the new thirty years’ war.   This fits in nicely with our preceding item about the race for the petroleum resources in the Arctic.

In a nutshell he believes the next 30 years will be crucial in which energies, countries and companies will determine the fate of life on Earth for the remainder of the 21st century.  In his view a struggle is guaranteed simply because our existing energy resources are incapable of  supporting a population of 9 billion people.  A combination of depleting oil reserves and the movement away from coal (presuming  its emissions cause climate change) will force humanity to find other means to power its lifestyles.

Over the coming decades, we will be embroiled at a global level in a succeed-or-perish contest among the major forms of energy, the corporations which supply them, and the countries that run on them. The question will be: Which will dominate the world’s energy supply in the second half of the twenty-first century? The winners will determine how – and how badly – we live, work, and play in those not-so-distant decades, and they will profit enormously as a result. The losers will be cast aside and dismembered.

This will be a war because the future profitability, or even survival, of many of the world’s most powerful and wealthy corporations will be at risk, and because every nation has a potentially life-or-death stake in the contest.

Why 30 years? Because that’s how long it will take for experimental energy systems like hydrogen power, cellulosic ethanol, wave power, algae fuel, and advanced nuclear reactors to make it from the laboratory to full-scale industrial development. Some of these systems (as well, undoubtedly, as others not yet on our radar screens) will survive the winnowing process. Some will not. And there is little way to predict how it will go at this stage in the game. At the same time, the use of existing fuels like oil and coal, which spew carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, is likely to plummet, thanks both to diminished supplies and rising concerns over the growing dangers of carbon emissions.

Klare then looks at the possible substitutes for coal and oil and concludes that the winners will be energy forms that are decentralised, easy to make and install, and required relatively modest levels of up-front investment like renewable energy and advanced biofuels.

Tags: , , , , , , , , , , ,