Insights · January 21st, 2009
Via The Oil Drum, we learn about the current world energy conference being held in Dubai. The conference began with an address by Dutch Crown Prince Willem-Alexander, Prince of Orange and the Netherlands, who is “perhaps the only prince in the world who regularly uses a bike to get around and save fossil fuels…”
Ladies and gentlemen, did you know that when the Roman Empire finally collapsed, large parts of Europe had been deforested. Acres of forestland had been cleared for farmland and to provide firewood. Wood and food were essential, to maintain the Roman Empire. To meet their short term needs, the Romans overexploited their prime energy resource. They did not think about the consequences for later generations. So the demise of a seemingly invincible civilization was partially due to the unsustainable use of their prime energy resource. The question is, are we going to be any wiser?
What the Romans were experiencing, we would now describe as peak wood. Reaching a point of maximum production after which it enters terminal decline. We are now facing a century of at least four undesirable peaks, peak oil, peak gas, peak coal and peak uranium. Mountaineers may be proud to conquer peaks, but there is no reason whatsoever for us to be proud. We can, however, change the course of history. The technologies we need are there.
Hardly a day goes by that I do not see or read or hear, on a blog, in a letter to the editor, on a website, at CNBC, the claim that we have centuries of conventional energy supply, and thus all warnings about energy use are, well, useless. The Prince disagrees, as do I.
Glen Hiemstra is a futurist speaker, consultant, blogger, internet TV show host and founder of Futurist.com. To arrange for a speech contact Futurist.com.