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Future Energy Tipping Points

Chart Credit : Jo Abbess

Making some very basic first order assumptions about liquid transport fuels, it becomes clear that a choke or tipping point will occur at around 2030.

The majority of the world’s road transport, and air and ocean-going freight will still be using liquid fuels, and the overwhelming majority of these will be hydrocarbons.

Around about 2030, a quarter of the world’s liquid transport fuel supplies will have evaporated, barring some miraculous new discoveries.

Even with some of the world’s Natural Gas and Coal supplies converted to liquid fuels, this point will still be reached at around the same time.

The world systems of trade will be severely affected, and that includes food imports and exports.

Chart Credit : Jo Abbess

The next breaking point will come in around 2040 (after Natural Gas has peaked on 2030) when BioMethane can no longer top up supply.

The depletion decline will be rapid.

This will affect electricity supplies and agricultural chemicals most of all. People will be able to get by without so much heating or hot water.

However, if a significant number of vehicles are running on compressed methane gas, they would be competing with food supplies.

Chart Credit : Jo Abbess

The generation of electricity could become the thing that tips the system back again – if the solar revolution kicks off seriously in around 2040.

However, for this to work, a lot of transport will need to become electric, as will space heating in homes and offices. Plus, increasing amounts of methane gases will have to be reserved for agricultural purposes, unless we can convert the entire world to organic farming.

Given the “battery problem”, a lot of transport will be public transport, running on rails with wires, not as electric cars – since batteries are heavy and require rare elements to make.

The world would have the most juice in the wires it will ever have in around 2060 – the right kind of decade for building everything we need to make our future totally renewable.

Note : pessimistic assumptions have been made about the amount of Carbon Capture and Storage that can be developed, given that coal consumption is very high. Pessimistic assumptions have also been made about nuclear power, as fuel supply is the main limitation. Extreme pessimism is on display as regards shale gas and the development of previously unworked Middle East oil fields.

Caveat Emptor : these charts were composed from a very basic modelling tool and are based on a number of assumptions that some people could dispute.

Note : If the flaring or emissions of Natural Gas from oil fields around the world were capped and piped to consumers, this would keep Natural Gas production higher for longer – but it would still peak before around 2050.

Note : The figure for Natural Gas Liquids is probably too high – the reality is that the deeper an oil field has been sequestered, the more Natural Gas there is in it compared to hydrocarbon liquids.

Note : There is actually a potential for a substantial quantity of Anaerobically Digested BioMethane, but the infrastructure needs building first…that includes all the sewage and water treatment plants around the world, all major animal farms, food waste disposal systems, all communal eating places and all major food manufacturing plants.

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