There is probably one thing that we can all agree on: the worlds energy reserves are not unlimited. Actually that's not strictly true, there is a near unlimited supply of energy coming from the sun but we are pretty bad at converting it into useful energy. Look around and ask yourself how much things will change in the near future. It is pretty certain that we will run out of gas in your lifetime. Quite when it will happen is up for debate but a guess of around twenty years would probably be pretty close. That's not long considering that, certainly in the UK, a good portion of houses have only gas powered heating and cooking.
We have, in all likelihood, gone to war in Iraq to ensure a steady supply of oil for the next twenty to thirty years but even if we can get exclusive access to that oil, and that's unlikely, it's a rather sort amount of time before people start getting cold and hungry. Make no mistakes, when the oil runs out the western culture will collapse and we will be sent hurtling back to the middle ages. Starvation will become a real problem, medicine will become scarce and transport will be by your own two feet or not at all.
The UK currently has around sixty million people. Without oil it could support maybe twenty million but probably less because there will be no oil to power farm machines, no fertilizer to grow strong crops and no herbicides or pesticides to keep the weeds and insects at bay. We will be sent back to a pre-industrial revolution world with no hope of it ending.
Winter will be the worst time for us because there will be nothing to burn. The first winter with no gas or oil will see every tree cut down for firewood even though burning unseasoned wood is nearly pointless. Our houses will start to fail as there will be no materials to maintain them with and rats will breed in their masses because we can't transport out waste away. Basic raw materials like wood and steal will become valuable commodities because we won't be able to produce them ourselves but they won't last anywhere near as long as we are used to because we won't have lacquers, paints and varnishes to protect them with.
Is there a bright side? Perhaps. There is no shortage of coal yet. Estimations put it at maybe two hundred years if we are careful with it but that is based on usage values from the late 1980's which are unlikely to be a good indication of the future. Once the far and middle east, in particular China and India, starts serious industrialization our world energy demand will sky rocket. Lets not forget Africa as well, one day they may get their act together and when they do the wests energy needs will be tiny in comparison. So lets re-estimate that we have one hundred years of coal left. That's not bad but it's still in the lifetime of our children. Won't somebody think of the children!
Of course the coal might be able to keep us warm – assuming that we can develop technology that allows us to actually get it out the ground as none of the currently technology that uses oil will be working – but the problem then is that it might keep us to warm. Burning all that coal will release trillions of tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. If you think global warming is bad now the forecast is that it's only going to get worse from here.
It is fairly clear that we need to do something about this problem now and not in twenty years when it start to really cause us problems. It takes huge amounts of money and a long time to develop a new energy technology to the point where it is useful. Look how long it took to develop the coal fired power station for instance – maybe one hundred years to get something really useful. We need to invest a good portion of our countries GDP in researching renewable energy sources so that we don't get caught out. There is no way on Earth the government will put even one percent of the countries GDP into research, let alone into researching alternative energy sources. This is bizarre because one of the few things that we will always need is power. If we could become the world leaders in renewable energy technology we would have the world eating out of our hand in the near future. If you agree even in part with what I have said please write to your MP asking him or her to push for more funding for alternative energy sources. Your way of life and your children's way of life depend on it.