Monday, April 19, 2010

Peak Oil VS Peak Water

I hear about Peak Oil. There is growing concerns that the world will not meet its energy supply needs. It seems to me that we have a much bigger problem on our hands. Humanity's water supply is limited right now. But let's compare Oil and Water first.

Let's look at Oil first.


How much do we have?

According to the US Government's Energy Information Administration, at least 1184.208 to 1238.892 billion barrels of oil. Infact according to the International Energy Agency: "The world’s energy resources are adequate to meet the projected demand increasethrough to 2030 and well beyond." In 2006 we were consuming 30 billion barrels a year. Of course I'm not saying we own the earth(Private property is theft rar rar. Just kidding.). I'm talking about the oil we have available.

So why the fuss?

Well, according Kjell Aleklett(Professor of Physics at Uppsala University, Sweden, and President of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil & Gas): "The oil industry and IEA accept the fact that the total production from existing oil fields is declining."(World Watch 2006, p. 10) As well as this, the US military says our surplus oil production capacity could disappear as early as 2015. This means while we have lots of oil, we aren't able to get to it enough to meet our needs.

The use of oil also contributes to the widely academically accepted fact of man-influenced climate change. As well as this the oil we mostly have is in countries with a track record of corrupt government.

Now I think we need to eventually switch to an alternative. But right now there's just not anything like oil to help us. We need it for our ships, our planes, cars and buses.

So what can be done?

Well I think we can do quite a bit. We could invest more money into energy research instead of war. We can make use of economical vehicles. Yeah this is pretty basic.

So here's something complicated: "[Government] Policy[s] should impose a large Btu or carbon tax on energy that is phased in over a long period, perhaps 20 years. This would signal entrepreneurs that there will be a market for alternative energies. Furthermore, increases in the energy tax should be offset by reducing other taxes, such as payroll or corporate taxes. Economic studies show that such an approach can generate a win-win solution—reduce energy use (and the environmental damages not paid by users), stimulate research and development on alternative energies, and speed economic growth."

So what is Rober Kaufmann(World Watch 2006, p. 20-21)(Professor in the center for Energy & Enviornment studies at Boston University) saying? Make a oil tax that slowly increases over a 20 year period. At the same time, personal and business taxes would slowly be reduced. Entrepreneurs will try to make alternative economical fuels or very economical engines, hoping to get rich. It'll be win win for both of us. Personally, I'd prefer for governments to do the research. If there's an alternative energy business monopoly it could screw everybody over. It could be more expensive than oil, though more enviornmentally friendly. However this is something we could do.

Now let's look at water.


How much do we have?

They say if aliens discovered earth, they wouldn't call it earth. They'd call it water. That's because at least 70% of the earths surface is covered in water.

So what's the fuss?

Canada's Enviornment Department says our drinkable rivers, aquifer and lakes are limited. They are 2.5% of the water in the world. It's scattered and not everybody has access to it. Over 1 in 6 people don't have access to safe drinking water. Nearly 5/12 people have no water sanitation (UN 2005). As well as this, 2/3 people could face water scarcity in the next 20 years due to political and climate issues. (UN 2009)

So what can be done?

The World Health Organisation states that a clean water supply and sanitation is one of the greatest things we can do to reduce poverty. Infact they state for every dollar put into drinkable water and sanitation, we would achieve a return of 3 to 34 dollars. That's a 1:3-34 cost to benefit ratio. The cost of drinkable water and sanitation is $11.3 billion a year. Considering the world has around 2.5 billion people without proper sanitation, that would be $4.52 per person. $4.52 a year to give someone a basic necessity of human life (WHO 2005, p. 32). United Nations Deputy Secretary-General Asha-Rose Migiro has also warned we need to insure we have integral ecosystems. This "means promoting peaceful collaboration in the sharing of water resources, particularly in the case of boundary and transboundary water resources.” (UN 2009)

Now let's draw a conclusion.

I think we could live in a country where oil is strictly regulated if we end up with not much oil. It would annoy us at first but we could adjust. I doubt we'll be doing that however. It's too authoritarian for peoples tastes. But the fact is oils likely to get more expensive. I don't think we could live without water. One of my biggest fears is that we will neglect the issue of accessible drinkable water in favour of looking for alternative energy. Political corruption and terrorism is affecting humanitys supply of water. Lack of water is affecting humanity far more right now than a lack of oil.

"Human ingenuity is one resource that won’t peak—but whether it can be mobilized quickly enough to surmount these challenges is not yet clear." - Christopher Flavin, President of the Worldwatch Institute.

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