I believe that when gas and oil are gone many people will die across the Earth. A great many children are doomed. However, because of its high ratio of arable land to population and more resources the US has a chance to survive for a couple of hundred years or even more if wisdom prevails. Nuclear energy is only a small part of the solution because in order to satisfy present US consumption we would have to go from about 100 plants to close to 1300. Others on this net have said that we only have about 40 years of fissionable material, presumably at present consumption. Obviously at higher rates the fuel would last only a short time.
Presently we are using about 360 million btus/capita/year and about 100 quads/yr (quadrillion btus) total. Europe is using about 150 million btus/capita. Therefore the most significant part of the solution is to cut consumption first to the European level and then toward the Chinese level which is about 10% of ours/capita. If we can cut consunption by 70% and produce about 10 quads each from Solar, Wind, and Biomass there is a good chance of surviving. We would then have about 22 quads coal, 8 quads nuclear, 10 quads as the remnants of oil and gas and 30 quads of alternate energy for a total of 70 quads. This should last us for 200 years or longer if we care enough about future generations to economize.
It can truly be said that conservation is by far the most significant part of the Sustainability picture and the apartment house is the most significant part of the solution. Society can survive in comfort in apartment houses if they travel on trains and streetcars, on 30% of present consumption. Rewards would be abundant nature, and full employment.
As an engineer-inventor my role is to develop devices that would save energy. I deal with engines, cogenerators, sewage systems, and everything else that would allow us to live on less energy. However I am working alone and am too old to do much. I am loaded with good ideas that I can never carry out.
My own despair results from my inability to influence any one. In order to survive the next century we will have to make huge investments in apartments, windmills, etc (My estimate is about $15.trillion). We need to start this now and can't afford foreign wars. Even on this list no one wants to quantitatively discuss the energy question. I don't think this letter will even be read. Most of the talk is idle conversation. The environmentalists have no interest in sustainability. They don't seem to care about the children at all. I grieve for my grandchildren. This government is totally depraved and idiotic. If the Bushites prevail for another 4 years that will make the situation even worse.
Kermit Schlansker PE