era of cheap oil is over forever. We need to learn to live without it and to rely on alternative, renewable sources of energy. With global demand rising and available supplies shrinking, higher and more volatile prices and shortages could provoke the end of suburbia. The era of cheap, abundant oil is indeed coming to a close and unfortunately paradoxically, the fight against climate change could be in very deep trouble. According to James Schlessinger, peak oil theories are correct and the world oil supply has reached a maximum and will fall off dramatically and demand will outstrip supply. According to Jeroen vander Veer, CEO of Royal Dutch Shell, after 2015 easily accessible oil and gas will not keep up with demand. Citibank feels it will be 2012. Whichever is correct, this does not give us much time to cure our addiction to energy and our need for a more exotic “fix.” This transition to other forms of energy such as wood to coal and coal to oil were gradual, but the oil peak is abrupt and will bring revolutionary results (Hertsgaard). Unfortunately, the pressure to find quick fixes could jeopardize efforts to mitigate global warming and pollution.
Everything from mining tar sands to nuclear energy is being posited to pick up the slack. The cost of such alternatives in terms of pollution cleanup (especially with regard to nuclear energy) may make such alternatives uneconomical and could cause an economic downward spiral even worse than the present one once the hidden costs are considered. Ironically, our imagining living without oil could make our lives without it worse by bringing on more extreme alternatives to oil. A more gradual transition could be brought about by crash development programs to develop solar, wind and other types of energy. Conservation could put off the day of the oil peak and facilitate a more gradual transition so that we will not have to rely upon the more extreme energy types such as nuclear energy. Unfortunately, the scenario that the author may be painting of a world without oil and oil products may be a radioactive wasteland.
Ironically, the construction of nuclear power plants in Texas is being justified because they cause less air pollution than coal-fired plants and would cause less air pollution for downwind Louisiana towns (Thompson). A website called Texas Radiation Online documents a number safety violations and cost overruns for current Texas nuclear power plants that somehow have been forgotten in the news in the last few years. This is rather ironic, considering that nuclear power was supposed to be very cheap. Then Atomic Energy Agency, Chairman Lewis Strauss said in 1954 that “It is not too much to expect that our children will enjoy in their homes electrical energy too cheap to meter,.”
Evidentally, Chairman Strauss was not talking to the people of the city of Austin, TX. The amounts passed onto ratepayers are in the billions of dollars. As the City of Austin joined State of Texas Nuclear project in 1973, the plant was estimated to cost $1 billion, with the Austin’s share set at $161 million. This ballooned to $6.2 billion with the town’s share at over $1 billion. Nuclear power has basically been proven to neither cheap or clean. This author believes agrees with Texas Radiation Online that such plants should be replaced with wind which is cheap and plentiful in Texas. They has been proven to generate income for Texas ratepayers instead of the other way around. Decommissioning such nuclear plants would remove the financial and security liability as well as preventing the necessity to store and haul nuclear waste that has a half-life of thousands of years. Certainly, these types of plants are not as glamorous as the nuclear power plants, but it is better to rely on a proven, cheap technology than to put so much money into dangerous and exotic technologies such as nuclear energy.
Hertsgaard, Mark. “We must imagine a life without oil. ” Environment. AlterNet.org, 08 April 2008. Web. 28 Nov 2010. .
Thompson, Richard. “Additional coal-fired power plants in Texas would produce more ‘bad air’ days in Louisiana, group says.” 16 Nov. 2010. Web. 28 Nov 2010.
“Texas Nuclear Power Plants.” Texas Radiation Online, 2003. Web. 28 Nov 2010. .
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