Saturday, April 15, 2006

Why Carbon Fuels Will Dominate The 21st Century's Global Energy Economy

Why Carbon Fuels Will Dominate the 21st Century Energy EconomyIf provocation stimulates lateral thought (de Bono), you will find it hard to think straight while reading Peter Odell's book. Its opening sentence sets the tone: 'Realism over the critical issues of energy supply and use in the 21st century's economies and societies has become a very scarce commodity'. Peter Odell's goes on and explains that it will be very difficult to move away rapidly from carbon fuels. He presents a 100-year scenario for the 21st century during which the world will consume 3 times more carbon energy (1660 Gtoe) than in the 20th (500 Gtoe). He finds that carbon energy is not as scarce a commodity as above mentioned realism, and is confident we have the resources to support such demand.

Carbon fuels take the center stage in the book, with 3 of the 6 chapters devoted to coal, oil and gas. Alternative energy, defined as renewable & nuclear energy, but excluding non-commercial biomass, is occasionally mentioned. Alternative energy will start its rise in the 2nd half of the 21st century, supplying 30% of the cumulative energy needs during the century, and ending it with a 43% market share. Gas will be the fuel of the 21st century, coal will decline in relative terms, and oil is expected to peak before the middle of the century.

The book deliberately and consistently mentions carbon fuels rather than fossil fuels, The hypothesis of the fossil origin of oil and gas dates back from the 18th century, and the book devotes a chapter to an alternative theory suggesting an inorganic origin of oil and gas. We know relatively little of the deep earth crust, and this theory may be as valid as its alternative. In any case, the 'Russian-Ukranian theory of the abyssal, abiotic origin of petroleum' merits more than an instant dismissal because of its origin.

This compact book will delight anybody open to challenge conventional wisdom on our energy system.

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