Posted March 2nd 2012 at 11:00 am by
in Perspectives on Current Events

Exporting the Energy Problem to our Grandchildren

Post author Hossam El-Asrag is is a lecturer at the department of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering at Princeton University.

Gas pump

Last week at Princeton University I listened to a talk given by Peter Evans, Director of Global Strategy and Planning at GE company. The talk was inspiring, and important to anyone who cares about the future of energy. The key ideas can be summarized as follows:

•  The energy distribution maps of production and consumption are not collocated. Eighty percent of oil/gas production is concentrated in 16 countries worldwide, and most of these countries are not the major energy consumers. Primary consuming countries are Japan, European nations, and the U.S. However, the trend is shifting, and we are currently at an inflection point where other non-OCED (ex: major European countries, US, and Japan) countries will have higher energy consumption in the future, like China and India.

•  Oil and gas are still the major energy sources and are expected to remain so in the foreseeable future. In 2011, $1 trillion was invested in global energy infrastructure in the U.S., 68% for oil and gas. By 2014 this will increase to 85%, and the rest is for power production. By 2025 we will have about 1 Billion more people on the planet, and about 70% power related carbon emission would be emitted from developing countries by this date.

•  A highly possible energy pathway in the U.S. will depend on natural gas drilling for unconventional natural gas that is estimated to cover more than 100 years capacity. Countries like China and Turkey will switch from coal to natural gas due to the water resources constraints needed for the coal production process. The battle between Coal and natural gas, as the two major energy sources and reserves in the future, will be based on which one is more cost-effective and has fewer constraints on the environment resources. It is also a misunderstanding that natural gas drilling requires more water resources than coal. For instance, the water consumed by hydraulic fracking is a fraction of the amount used for coal mining.

From the above three bullets, it seems that the U.S. government will be investing heavily in natural gas rather than renewables and other sustainable energy resources in the next few decades. Hydraulic fracking and nonconventional gas resources will take over the importation of oil and drilling of conventional natural gas.

To me, this sounds like a sleeping pill to ease the pain for the next 100 years. In other words, we will be exporting the energy problem to our children and grand children, and counting on them to find the real solution.

Photo credit: gbleakmore on Flickr.

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