Ticking Time Bomb

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Lou Grinzo, a technical writer and bachelor in economics, is working hard to raise awareness about the peak oil situation in two ways. First, he is trying to introduce people to the major trends in energy development and talk about what can be done for the future.

Second, he wants to give people the references they’ll need to fact-check his information. He says that he’s been an ‘energy geek’ since the 1973 oil crisis, and he is obsessed with gaining knowledge about global energy economics and supplies.

His take on energy resources is not as pessimistic as some, he believes oil will not become as expensive as some experts believe because the price increase will naturally increase the viability of alternative energy technology.

The world is at or near what’s called “Peak Oil,” after which the world’s oil production will steadily decline. The exact date doesn’t really matter, Grinzo says. The important thing is that future oil deposits will be harder to reach (five or six miles below the ocean surface, for example) and of lower quality. We won’t run out of oil, Grinzo says, because as the price goes up, we will replace it with other fuels now considered pricey. “Can we live with $100 barrel oil? Yes. It won’t be fun, but we can do it,” he says.

And at that price, combinations of solar power (made from thin film - silicon free - solar panels that are cheaper to install) and wind power will become more viable. The revolution in alternative fuel cars is just beginning, he says, and don’t be surprised if the next generation of hybrids are “plug-ins” that can be recharged at home, and which will gradually run farther and longer on battery power before kicking over to the gas tank.

The oil shortages will propel a greater reliance on nuclear and coal-fired electricity generating plants. That will create problems - disposing of even more nuclear waste, for one, and limiting the pollution from burning coal. But very little of today’s electric power comes from oil, he says, so the shift to electricity to power cars and heat homes is a natural.

There are other promising developments, Grinzo believes. Take cellulosic ethanol - which uses a refining process that can turn any plant material into ethanol. “The emphasis is on genetic engineering, which may produce plants better suited for ethanol production,” he says. Already government research reports that fast-growing, low maintenance poplar trees are an excellent source of ethanol.

“The biggest untapped resource is still conservation, he says. “There’s so much low-hanging fruit.” People know about the easy steps but don’t always take them. Use compact fluorescent light bulbs, wrap your hot-water tank in insulation, and turn off the pilot light on gas fireplaces during the warm months.

“The political left will hate it because of the use of more nuclear and coal,” Grinzo says. “The right will hate it because of tax breaks to promote solar or wind use.” But voters should become “independent journalists,” checking the facts and supporting the changes that will allow us to live well with less oil.

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