Teaching resources in our school science class can explain how fossil fuels are produced during biology, geography and physics lessons. This abundant natural production facility has just one flaw. It cannot keep up with demand. Thus we won’t run out totally but there’s a catch. There will be a slight delay of several million years whilst the next batch of oil is produced.
Whether you agree with the greenhouse effect; pollution from fossil fuel emissions, political unrest or corruption from third world suppliers, the effect of oil on our lives is colossal. But there is a key feature which should accelerate the swing to renewable energy education. The cost of oil will rise. How much depends on many factors, dwindling accessible stocks, currency exchange rates, inflation, profitability of oil suppliers, political unrest, supply route interruptions, cross border transport – all have their two penny worth in the end user price. And and lets leave taxes out on this one because as oil disappears governments would find an alternative source of tax income.
The International Energy Agency’s World Energy Outlook Report said in 2008 that estimates of remaining proven reserves of oil and natural gas lie between 1.2 to 1.3 trillion barrels, enough to last 40 years at the current consumption rates. Half a lifetime away maybe but a desperately short period to complete a universal switch over to other energy sources in time. A couple of changes in government, natural human complacency and reluctance to change, and 15 years could easily slip by. Then with only 25 years left panic measures could set in. Protectionism, hoarding and price hikes that would even outshine banker’s bonuses would emerge. Significant investment is required in university research programmes to assess viable alternatives.
Children in school need to understand the implications to motivate a progressive swing into science and technology. It will inevitably be up to them to develop the future generations of efficient renewable energy technology. But research should not stop at producing green energy but equally how we use it. Sustainability is equally crucial. Recycling, reuse and upgradability need consideration. We should not be dumping PC and laptops to gain greater performance but be able to pay for component upgrade exchange. Maybe we should be forced to keep electronic goods for 10 years before being able to replace them or pay a thumping great levy.