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Energy... beyond oil$
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Fraser Armstrong and Katherine Blundell

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780199209965

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: November 2020

DOI: 10.1093/oso/9780199209965.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM OXFORD SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (oxford.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright Oxford University Press, 2021. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in OSO for personal use. date: 16 January 2022

Energy…beyond oil: a global perspective

Energy…beyond oil: a global perspective

(p.1) 1 Energy…beyond oil: a global perspective
Energy... beyond oil

Fraser Armstrong

Katherine Blundell

Oxford University Press

Coal and oil, which are the buried products of several hundred million years of solar energy, photosynthesis, and geological pressure, have fuelled our industries and transport systems since the Industrial Revolution, a period of only 200 years. Although opinions differ as to when the peak in oil production will occur (perhaps in 2010, perhaps in 2030), it is hard to avoid the conclusion that oil is being consumed about one million times faster than it was made and, further than this, the twenty-first century, will be the century when societies have to learn to live without gas and oil (coal will outlast oil and gas by a few hundred years). But, there is an entirely separate motivation for living without fossil fuel: obtaining energy from oil, coal, and gas will continue to put carbon dioxide (CO2) into the atmosphere at levels which it is widely acknowledged are elevating the average temperature on the planet. Carbon dioxide is a good heat absorber and acts like a blanket: this is because CO2 molecules resonate strongly with infrared radiation causing it to be trapped as heat instead of all being transmitted into space. Global warming is already causing the polar ice caps to melt and it is inevitable that there will be higher sea levels resulting in less land for an increasing population, along with changes in climate. These changes are not easy to predict and may be difficult to reverse. Either of these two motivations, be it the depletion of oil reserves or the need to arrest global warming caused by the combustion of fossil fuels, mandates new thinking from all those with concern for the future. How will future generations view our policies and our decision making today? Unless we change course now, these people will be left in a world where energy is a scarce resource and the mobility we have taken for granted in the late twentieth and early twenty-first century will be long gone. Our generation—rightly—would be blamed for knowingly squandering the planet’s resources.

Keywords:   China, Rotech, fusion energy, global warming, hydrogen economy, photosynthesis, renewable energy, solar energy, tides, uranium, wind

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