Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Let's Talk Energy

I attended The Natural Step breakfast meeting this morning.  The topic was Peak Oil and John Kaufmann, Senior Policy Analyst with the Oregon Dept. of Energy gave an amazing presentation.

If you are not aware of Peak Oil, then I highly, highly recommend you get yourself educated about the science and the implications.  I believe we may have already peaked, or that the peak is imminent.  He said the consensus is that we reach Peak in 2-5 years if we haven’t already.  Here are some resources for more information:  www.hubbertpeak.com, www.peakoilportal.com, www.theoildrum.com.

One of the key things I’ll share is that this crisis is urgent and that we ought to be using the precious liquid gas resources we do have to bootstrap our way to the next system.  It takes lots of fossil fuel to build electric trains, retrofit and build buildings for zero energy use, and put in the grid and generators that will provide clean and renewable energy in the future.  We have really squandered the last 25-30 years and we cannot afford to squander the next.

Every type of non-renewable energy source will peak and decline this century: Petroleum, natural gas, coal, uranium.  We currently get 4 percent of our energy from renewable sources (wind, hydro, solar, geothermal, bio, etc.) and almost none of that fuels our transportation.  96% of our energy supplies will peak or be exhausted this century.  Ninety-six percent!

I’ve never really thought about how much energy we use or what life might be like without it. I recently heard a couple of examples that put our energy use in context.

How much energy does it take to run a single 100 watt light bulb?  Have you ever been on one of those bikes hooked up to a light bulb?  It takes a very physically fit person biking at nearly full speed to power a single light bulb.  Multiply that by all the lights and electrical devices in your home and you probably have the equivalent of at least 50 human slaves working for you in the form of energy.

How much energy is in a gallon of gas? Try this, fill your tank with a gallon of gas and drive until you run out.  How much energy was in that gallon?  Try pushing the car home to find out.  Similarly, fill a chainsaw with a gallon and cut wood until you run out.  Now repeat using an axe or saw.  You’ll find that a gallon of gas can do the work of more than 100 men.  I had someone tell me today that 3 tablespoons of gasoline will do the equivalent work of one person working an 8 hour day.


No comments: