Daily Archives: 02/01/2006

Unsustainable

Anybody catch the State of the Union? I caught a bit of it on the radio, then the signal dropped out. Oh well, I really wanted to hear what Bush had to say about our dependency on oil. I am sure he was all for further exploration and drilling for new oil sources, building nuclear power plants, and investing in alternative fuels like ethanol and hydrogen fuel cells.

Too bad it is all for naught. What is really needed is to reduce our ravenous addiction to fossil fuels. There just isn’t enough organic matter growing on the planet to satisfy our consumption. George Monbiot put it best in a piece in the Guardian last December:

In 2003, the biologist Jeffrey Dukes calculated that the fossil fuels we burn in one year were made from organic matter “containing 44 x 1018 grams of carbon, which is more than 400 times the net primary productivity of the planet’s current biota”. In plain English, this means that every year we use four centuries’ worth of plants and animals.

That is a staggering amount of energy, and we have been incredibly lucky to have these vast stores of cheap and readily available energy for the past century. But it is dwindling, and no amount of investment in bio-diesel or ethanol can replace the supply of oil and coal. We simply use too much.