energy security

We humans are deeply reliant on energy to maintain our lifestyle and to run our economy, first-world societies especially so.  


Science and technology have given us access to plentiful and cheap energy in the last one hundred and fifty years.  Science and technology have enabled us to obtain and use the fossil fuel energy from coal, oil, and gas: fossil fuel energy that life has progressively stored away over hundreds of millions of years.  The modern global economy has risen and developed on the basis of using large quantities of that energy at its every stage, including the collection of resources from Earth, the conversion of those resources into products, the distribution of those products, and in the end-use of those products.


Plentiful energy has allowed modern societies to develop in a way that spreads their interactions widely, so that materials, goods, and people are easily moved over huge distances.  Whereas, once a human community had to be able to obtain all of the resources it needed and deliver all of its products within a relatively limited local area, we can now easily get our resources from, and deliver our products to, almost any place on Earth.  We as individuals can live far from where we work, far from where we buy the products that we need to run our lives, and far from where we spend our leisure time.  The geographical decentralisation of the suburban lifestyle that most of us live would be impossible to maintain without the energy to move goods, and to power the cars that move us around.  The way that we all live our lives is predicated entirely on our easy access to lots of energy. 


Cheap and plentiful energy has enabled us to mechanise our water supplies and our food production, and to augment our food producing processes with irrigation, artificial fertilisers, and pesticides.  Our food supply is now so plentiful, due to easily available energy, that we have been able to massively increase the human population of Earth to a level that could not be sustained without that energy.


Freely available and cheap energy is the basis of the globalisation and decentralisation of modern society and its global economy, and of the massive increase in human population.  Without that cheap, plentiful energy none of these things can be maintained.  Our society is structured on the assumption of the availability of cheap and plentiful energy, and has developed into a form that cannot exist without that energy – it is completely dependent upon it.  


Most of our energy comes from the fossil fuels: oil, coal, and natural gas.  All of these materials exist in finite quantities and are non-renewable.  If we keep using all of these energy resources we must eventually use them up.   When this happens, we will need to greatly restructure our society and the way that we live, at great cost.  Our society can't exist in its current form without that energy, and is likely to suffer economic recession, civil unrest, and a general collapse if our access to energy and the resources that energy makes available to us become insufficient to maintain it.   


Global population growth, our high and increasing individual resource consumption, and the resulting economic growth, are all causes of depletion of our energy resources.


This page is linked from:

the issues that humanity faces 

limits to our energy supply


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