Schedule Feb 02, 2010
A World Powered Predominantly by Solar and Wind Energy
Walter Kohn, UCSB

Total oil and natural gas production (or consumption), which currently provides about 60% of global energy use, is expected to peak in 20 plus or minus 10 years, followed by a rapid decline. During that same time interval, the developing world will see an approximate doubling of its population as well as an approximate tripling in per capita energy consumption. The near-coincidence of these three galloping trends have created two unprecedented global challenges: The threatened global shortage of acceptable energies and the imminent danger of unacceptable global warming and its consequences. This colloquium describes a possible way of coping with this situation: A concerted commitment to a changeover from the current era dominated by oil plus natural gas to a future era dominated by solar and wind energy, both of which are clean and effectively inexhaustible. However, this optimistic perspective must be tempered with the realization that, unless there are technological breakthroughs, the energy of the future would be much more costly than at this time. In the United States this would require a significant change of lifestyle: population stabilization and greater energy effectiveness and conservation.

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