The spectacular economic growth of the twentieth century was based on the exploitation of fossil fuels. The enormous challenge of the twenty-first is how to maintain our quality of life without them.
It is an inescapable fact that fossil fuels are running out and carbon released from their burning causes climate change. In the long term we need to find alternatives. Even now, serious problems arise because oil and gas supplies which remain are increasingly inaccessible, both physically and politically.
Physically, they are harder to reach, deep below the ocean floor, in the Antarctic or in rock formations that have to be fractured. Exploitation of these resources is technically challenging and carries risks to our environment and fragile ecosystems, as demonstrated by the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
Politically, access to fossil fuel resources often lies with unpleasant and human rights violating regimes. Those without these resources lack energy security and will be increasingly exposed to increasing prices and future price rise shocks.
Electricity demand will increase as our transport system moves from oil to using electricity. Finding reliable, sustainable and clean ways of generating electricity is therefore urgent. Energy saving, efficiency and renewable energy are by far the best solutions.
Energy saving and efficiency
It is better to save energy and use it efficiently than to generate it from any source, even renewable. For advice see:
Energy Saving Trust – Energy-saving top tips
Centre for Sustainable Energy – Advice & information for householders
Renewable energy targets
Government: UK Policy – 15% of energy from renewables by 2020
WWF: Positive Energy – 60% of UK electricity by 2030
WWF: Energy Report – 100% of world energy by 2050
Centre for Alternative Technology: Zero Carbon Britain by 2030