Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Shell say cheap renewable energy is "years away".

Jeroen van der Veer has said that while the world faces a doubling in its thirst for energy by 2050, renewable sources of energy remain too expensive and their full development will take decades. Meanwhile, we will need to rely on conventional fossil sources such as gas, oil and coal, which have a finite supply and makes me think it is touch and go just to what extent renewables might be installed before the world has to confront a major energy crunch. There are three main forces driving human demand for energy, one being the rising population - predicted to reach 9 billion by 2050 - secondly, that many conventional fossil resources that were readily recoverable are now in a phase of depletion; thirdly, that renewables are still far too expensive.

I wonder that if, as has been suggested, the governments of the world joined forces on a scale that has been compared to the "Manhatten Project" which gave birth to the atomic bomb and ended WWII, that the cost of renewables might be borne, in praise of the longer-term survival of humanity, but as yet there is no sign that this will take place, and more likely individual nations will continue to grab what they can of what is left. Ultimately it is not pure economics that will drive political and social strategy, but cooperation or conflict, and surely it should be hoped in the interests of preserving life on the planet the former is the better means. Nonetheless, I am not convinced that the huge amount of energy we currently use worldwide can be provided entirely from renewable sources, especially that for transportation with its own particular requirements.

In the absence of artificial fertilizers and fuel to power farming, it has been estimated that there is so much arable land on Earth to support anywhere between 2 billion and 3 billion people, but not even 6 billion let alone that predicted 2050 number of 9 billion. This raises all kinds of unpalatable issues of controlling population in the face of limited resources.

On the matter of more immediate resources, President Putin has threatened Ukraine that if it allows the Bush Administration to put nuclear missiles on its soil (i.e. on the Russian border) , Russia will point its nukes back at them. Poland and the Czech republic have agreed to allow US missiles to be emplaced in their countries, and Putin said that the real purpose to host the missiles in central Europe is to aim them at Russia not at missiles fired from rogue states like North Korea and Iran. There are already issues between Ukraine and Russia over supplies of gas from the latter and the former's ability to pay its debts for Russian gas. Actual cuts of gas have been averted, however, since the Ukrainian president Victor Yushscenko has promised to pay a bill for $1.5 billion (£750 million) to Gazprom, the Russian state energy company, owed for supplies of gas from central Asia and Russia. Gazprom provides 71% of Ukraine's gas.

The deal apparently follows a concert at the Kremlin to mark Gazprom's 15th birthday, for which the company booked Tina Turner and the UK heavy-rock band, Deep Purple. Dmitry Medvedev, the first Russian deputy prime minister, is said to be a "devoted Deep Purple fan" and is marked as a successor to Putin's presidency.

Related Reading.
[1] "Cheap, renewable energy years away: Shell", By Mark Trevelyan, Reuters:
[2] "Putin issues nuclear threat to Ukraine over plan to hist shield", By Luke Harding, The Guardian:
[3] "Russia, Ukraine Reach Last-Minute Deal, Avert Gas Cut (Update 4)", Bu Greg Waleters and Lucian Kim:

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