The End of Easy Energy and What to Do About It by James Michael Snead
Easy energy refers to the current oil, coal, and natural gas energy sources that provide about 86% of the U.S.’s and the world’s energy. An increasing average world per capita demand for easy energy combined with a growing U.S. and world population will exhaust recoverable resources of easy energy this century, probably within the lifetime of today’s young children. Current sustainable nuclear and renewable energy sources provide only about 14% of the world’s electricity and modern fuel needs. To meet the world’s projected 3X increase in energy needs by 2100, if not decades earlier, today’s sustainable energy production must expand by a factor of over 25X. This paper’s assessment of the energy production potential of conventional nuclear, geothermal, wind, ground solar electric, and land biomass finds that these will fall significantly short of both the U.S.’s or the world’s 2100 sustainable energy needs. To fill the substantial sustainable energy shortfall that will emerge by 2100 as the era of easy energy ends, space solar power and algae biodiesel—absent the extensive use of advanced nuclear energy and/or undersea methane hydrates—will need to be substantially developed. Space solar power will be needed to supply most of the U.S.’s and the world’s dispatchable electrical power generation capacity while hydrogen produced with off-peak space solar power electricity and algae biodiesel will be needed to fill the fuels shortfall.