U.K. newspaper the Guardian, recently asked its online readers to put together their toughest questions on energy to be answered by nine of the world’s leading energy scientists.
The paper posted the ten best questions and the scientists’ responses. The underlying context in every question is about energy’s role in the future. These questions of carbon reductions, energy efficiency, and needing a long term approach are critical, and they are issues that governments around the global are looking at right now.
A particularly good one, in our opinion, is question number three:
3. The world’s population is due to rise to 9 billion people. Can the planet supply the energy needed to achieve that end? From Ken Brookes
Tom Blees: Widespread predictions that energy demand will double by mid-century to meet the needs of an expected 9-10 billion humans are, I believe, too conservative. Billions of people rely on now-shrinking glaciers for much of their water supply, with many areas of the world already lacking adequate water. Increasing human numbers by 50% means that we will have to provide most of the water for some billions of people primarily with desalination, an energy-intensive process. Add to that the fact that the majority of people in the world today use a fraction of the energy used by those in developed countries, and one could easily anticipate at least a tripling of demand in developing countries as they strive to improve their standard of living.
In the book Prescription for the Planet, I explained how a doubling of energy supply could easily be accomplished by 2050 at a rate of deployment even less ambitious than the French employed as they converted to nuclear power in the 1970s and 80s. Given the ability to factory-produce fast reactors of the type described here, a concerted global effort to meet mid-century energy demands should be quite within reach. The fuel is already available and – for all intents and purposes – virtually free.
We would also add that the nuclear and renewable energy technologies available now are solutions to help meet this projected demand. Combined, these energy solutions provide reliable, CO2-free energy that can help with the combined pressure of population growth, greater access to energy, and economic expansion.