How little progress has been made since 1973

Last year I was watching a couple of TEDs, and I came across this one given by Richard Sears, former Vice President of Royal Dutch Shell.

When he showed a chart of depletion curves for various energy resources, I thought to myself “I’ve seen this somewhere before”. As indeed I had. Nearly 30 years ago. How time flies.

Memory is a patchy thing – the past is a set of blurred images of places, people, things – snapshots and summaries, little stories that we retell ourselves to encapsulate the moment. Things people said. I seem to recall emotional responses with the most clarity, so I cast myself back, trawling through my internal notebook for clues, hooks on which to recall.

This may be a false memory, but it may not be, considering it allowed me to research the past. There I was, in the University Library, with all its institutional glass windows, and the sun beating down. It was too hot to think. In my hands I had an article from my undergraduate Physics degree reading list, probably provided by the Engineering Department for our study module on Energy. I recall that for some reason it was a translation. And had some complex formulae. My head buzzed. I couldn’t quite take it in.

It didn’t take much Googling to remind me : Marchetti.

Back in the 1970s, engineers were promising a hydrogen economy for the 21st century, and Cesare Marchetti was optimistic about Carbon Capture and Storage.

How little progress has been made since the First Oil Shock of 1973.

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