Future energy development
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World energy consumption.
An increasing share of world energy consumption is predicted to be used by developing nations. Source: EIA.
Extrapolations from current knowledge to the future offer a choice of energy futures. Some predictions parallel the Malthusian catastrophe hypothesis. Numerous are complex models based scenarios as pioneered by Limits to Growth. Modeling approaches offer ways to analyze diverse strategies, and hopefully find a road to rapid and sustainable development of humanity. Short term energy crises are also a concern of energy development. Some extrapolations lack plausibility, particularly when they predict a continual increase in oil consumption.
Existing technologies for new energy sources, such as renewable energy technologies, particularly wind power and solar power, are promising. Nuclear fission is also promoted, and each need sustained research and development, including consideration of possible harmful side effects. Jacques Cousteau spoke of using the salinization of water at river estuaries as an energy source, which would not have any consequences for a million years, and then stopped to point out that since we are going to be on the planet for a billion years we had to be looking that far into the future. Nuclear fusion and artificial photosynthesis are other energy technologies being researched.
Energy production usually requires an energy investment. Drilling for oil or building a wind power plant requires energy. The fossil fuel resources (see above) that are left are often increasingly difficult to extract and convert. They may thus require increasingly higher energy investments. If the investment is greater than the energy produced, then the fossil resource is no longer an energy source. This means that a large part of the fossil fuel resources and especially the non-conventional ones cannot be used for energy production today. Such resources may still be exploited economically in order to produce raw materials for plastics, fertilizers or even transportation fuel but now more energy is consumed than produced. (They then become similar to ordinary mining reserves, economically recoverable but not net positive energy sources.) New technology may ameliorate this problem if it can lower the energy investment required to extract and convert the resources, although ultimately basic physics sets limits that cannot be exceeded.
It should be noted that between 1950 and 1984, as the Green Revolution transformed agriculture around the globe, world grain production increased by 250%. The energy for the Green Revolution was provided by fossil fuels in the form of fertilizers (natural gas), pesticides (oil), and hydrocarbon fueled irrigation. The peaking of world hydrocarbon production (peak oil) may lead to significant changes, and require sustainable methods of production.
 History of predictions about future energy development
Ever since the beginning of the Industrial Revolution, the question of the future of energy supplies has occupied economists.
(Data from Kahn et al. (1976) pp. 94–5 infra)
- 1865 — William Stanley Jevons published The Coal Question in which he claimed that reserves of coal would soon be exhausted and that there was no prospect of oil being an effective replacement.
- 1885 — U.S. Geological Survey: Little or no chance of oil in California.
- 1891 — U.S. Geological Survey: Little or no chance of oil in Kansas or Texas.
- 1914 — U.S. Bureau of Mines: Total future production of 5.7 billion barrels (910,000,000 m3).
- 1939 — U.S. Department of the Interior: Reserves to last only 13 years.
- 1951 — U.S. Department of the Interior, Oil and Gas Division: Reserves to last 13 years.
The history of perpetual motion machines is a long list of failed and sometimes fraudulent inventions of machines which produce useful energy "from nowhere" — that is, without requiring any energy input.
- 1956 — Geophysicist M. King Hubbert predicts U.S. oil production will peak between 1965 and 1970 (peaked in 1971). Also predicts world oil production will peak "within half a century" based on 1956 data. This is Hubbert peak theory.
- 1989 — Predicted peak by Colin Campbell ("Oil Price Leap in the Early Nineties," Noroil, December 1989, pages 35–38.)
- 2004 — OPEC estimates it will nearly double oil output by 2025 (Opec Oil Outlook to 2025 Table 4, Page 12)rashi
 See also
Sustainable development portal
Main article: Outline of energy development
- Avoiding Dangerous Climate Change
- Cubic mile of oil
- Energy planning
- Energy policy
- Energy policy of the United States
- Environmental concerns with electricity generation
- List of emerging energy technologies
- List of environment topics
- Nuclear energy policy
- Proposed future transport
- Renewable energy development
- renewable energy resources
- World energy resources and consumption