The other big theme that I follow is peak oil. There has been a flurry of articles in the mainstream media that last few days on this topic.
This is extremely relevant to Bangalore as we design (if at all) our city for the next 20-30 years. Mobility is a key element of any city and the investments we make should ensure they do not assume cheap petrol or diesel. Public transport, pedestrianization and cycling should start getting emphasis from now.
What is peak oil? It is the maximum rate of oil extraction. Currently oil is being extracted at about 85 million barrels per day or about 30 billion barrels (GB) per year. This is approximately 1 cubic mile a year. This has remained fairly static in the last 5 years inspite of growing demand from India and China. The rate did not go up significantly inspite of record oil prices seen in Aug/Sep 2008. For more on Peak Oil (PO) please read this link - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil
The UK Energy Research Centre published a report a couple of days back.
Based on the data that they had at their disposal they believe that there is a significant risk to oil supplies being unable to meet growing demand in the next 10 years.
The main reason is the relentless treadmill imposed on the industry by the falling output of most existing fields, as a result of falling reservoir pressures and a long-term decline in the size of the fields being discovered. The UKERC found that total production from existing fields is declining at 4 per cent or more each year, meaning the world has to add 3 million barrels of daily production capacity annually just to stand still, equivalent to developing a new Saudi Arabia every three years. This will present 'a major challenge, even if ‘above-ground’ conditions are favourable', says the report.
'If you don’t even recognize the problem you will inevitably be unprepared,' says Sorrell. 'The Government needs to wake up to oil depletion and start planning, because it’s going to mean major changes infrastructure, investment and lifestyles'.
The last statement is very true of most governments including our own.
What about alternatives. It takes time to build alternatives. And the scale at which we will have to do this is truly massive and will require massive investments. What does it take to replace 1 cubic mile of oil
Any of these or a combination. Please see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cubic_mile_of_oil
- 4 Three Gorges Dams, developed each year for 50 years, or
- 52 nuclear power plants, developed each year for 50 years, or
- 104 coal-fired power plants, developed each year for 50 years, or
- 32,850 wind turbines,  developed each year for 50 years, or
- 91,250,000 rooftop solar photovoltaic panels developed each year for 50 years
So 200 Three Gorges dam each year or 2600 nuclear plants each year. That shows how much we depend on oil and how much we have taken it for granted.