A statement of the problem in capsule form

Abundant and economical energy is the life blood of modern civilizations. The bargraph shows oil, coal and natural gas together supplying 85 percent of the world's energy supply in 2008.

Global Energy

Coal, nuclear and hydro are used primarily to make electricity. Natural gas is widely used for heating. Biomass, which usually means wood or dried dung, is used for heating and cooking. The red sliver is wind and solar power, primarily. The red sliver may be small, but it is the future because wind and solar power are sustainable.

Oil powers almost all machines that move and that makes oil uniquely versatile. Oil powered airplanes carry 500 people across the widest oceans at nearly the speed of sound. Oil powered machines produce and transport food. In North America there are many more seats in oil powered vehicles than there are people. Oil powered machines are ubiquitous. Clearly, we live in the age of oil, but the age of oil is drawing to a close.

If oil production remains constant until it's gone, there is enough to last 42 years. Oil wells produce less as they become depleted which will make it impossible to keep production constant. Similarly, there is enough natural gas to last 61 years and there is enough coal to last 133 years. Nearly everyone realizes oil and gas will become scarce and expensive within the life times of living humans. Inevitably, there will be a transition to sustainable energy sources. The transition may be willy-nilly or planned--the choice is ours.

Consider the implications of the following facts;

* The United States consumes 25 percent of the world's oil and 70 percent of that is imported.

* 61 percent of the world's oil reserves are in the Middle East. The United States has 2.4 percent.

* 66.3 percent of the world's gas reserves are in the Middle East and the Russian Federation. The United States has 3.4 percent.

Because of our numbers and our technology, we humans greatly influence the ecology of Earth. We humans, qualified or not, are at the controls. Earth does not come with an operating manual. We humans need to look to science to create one.

The coming era of limited and expensive energy will be very difficult for everyone on Earth but it will be even more difficult if it is not anticipated. It is of utmost importance that the public and especially policymakers understand the global energy crisis and the underlying science.

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