Wow!! Thanks for alerting us to the BP web page. Something I had been
looking for: lots of good and up-to-date information.
Compared to Richard Duncan's prognosis, I consider myself an optimist.
Common sense tells me that, when our resources become limited, we will find
a way to make them stretch and we'll find alternatives for oil, natural gas,
and coal. Trouble is, common sense is not all that common and hot heads may
prevail. We need to do what we can to prevent that while there is still
time. If past experiences are a clue, the poor will suffer most and sooner
than the rest. It's our Christian duty to make sure that this does not
happen this time around.
Where I think Richard Duncan is making a mistake is by linking technological
progress with energy consumption. History teaches us that we made a fair
bit of progress in science before we started using vast amounts of energy.
Many societies developed quite nicely without using vast amounts of energy.
Look at the Chinese, for example. Thus, as we run out of oil, we may not
have to go back to the stone age, maybe only as far back as to what life was
like it was around the time of Luther and Calvin. After all, we can still
build boats and make plows. Our high grade ore deposits will have gone,
but the iron that we got out of the ground will still be there (junk yard
are great ore deposits). Most of the gold we have mined since the year
'dot' is still around. All that will be missing is fossil fuel.
My guess (and I'm in the nuclear business) is that, when society is faced
with energy shortages, nuclear technology will become more acceptable and
that nuclear power should take care of much, if not most, of the industrial
and residential demands. My home is already 100% electric (simply because
we are too far from natural gas pipelines and because Manitoba has lots of
hydro power). I only use fossil fuels to run the cars and the lawnmower
and, in a pinch, I could go back to an electric lawnmower or even a
non-powered one, but I would hate to have to do without a car.
As I have mentioned in previous posts, transportation is most vulnerable to
loss of oil. Even there, railroads can (and should be) electrified, leaving
the scarce oil for airplanes and air travel could be limited to longer
distances, leaving short hauls to electric trains and buses. True, travel
will be slower, but I'd rather get there slowly than not at all. In Europe,
train travel is more convenient that air travel over distances of less than
500 miles (or is it kilometres). I traveled from London to Brussels by
train a couple of years ago. Downtown-to-downtown was probably just as fast
as by air/subway and they served a very nice meal on the Eurostar. As for
marine transportation, we still have lots of coal and could go back to
In short, I think Richard Duncan is a bit of an alarmist, but it make for
good copy. Mind you, he did paint a scenario for the spring of 2001. We'll
see how close he was in another six months.
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