. Space Power Now - for Human Survival Space Power Now - for Human Survival Space Power Now - for Human Survival  

We are going to run out of oil, most likely in the lifetime of people who are alive today. Before that happens, we are going to run out of cheap energy. When that happens, there's going to be starvation, civil unrest, warfare and the collapse of civilization - maybe even the end of humanity if the wars get too far out of hand.

This isn't a disaster that's just going to fall on America, or only on the industrialized parts of the world: This is going to affect every human being on the planet, except perhaps jungle dwellers and aborigines who are largely independent of civilization. If the downfall of civilization results in nuclear warfare, however, even those hapless tribes will not be unscathed.

When is this horrible disaster going to befall us? That's hard to say because the estimates of how much oil is left are just that - estimates - and the numbers being touted by various groups vary wildly. The most optimistic predictions tell us there are reserves for 150 years, pessimists predict a tenth of that time. In any case, as we get closer to the bottom of the barrel, the cost of retrieving the oil is going to skyrocket which will signal the beginning of the end. Many of the projections assume that oil consumption is going to level out, or even decline. Neither of those conditions is going to occur: More people are using more oil every day, and as long as there is oil available, that's not going to change.

Modern civilization is totally dependent on oil: Huge amounts are burned up every day in our transportation systems, to provide heat, and to generate electricity. (All of those electric hand dryers being installed in rest rooms "to save paper waste" - where does the electricity come from? Think about it!!) In addition, nearly anything made out of plastic started out as oil. Plastic is being used for everything - containers, plumbing, vinyl siding, furniture, cell phones, car bodies, LED light bulbs, etc., etc. I would be very surprised to meet anyone living in the civilized world who doesn't own anything made of plastic - and most of us have lots of things that are. As we go about raising the standard of living for everyone on the planet, the demand for more plastic - and more oil for fuel - is just going to go up.

Eventually the current demand for oil and oil products is going to exceed the total production capacity. When that happens, civilization will start to collapse.

Starvation.     Civil unrest.      WAR     ...

There is a way to avert this disaster - but the window of opportunity is rapidly passing by. The death of civilization can be avoided - only by developing a replacement energy supply. Doing so is going to take a tremendous investment of effort, and will require a substantial amount of time - and energy. If we wait too long, however, there won't be enough time left to build a replacement energy source.

Fossil fuels - oil, coal, gas - have stored the Sun's energy that fell on the Earth in the past; in essence, they are fossilized sunshine. Over the course of the last one hundred fifty years we have burned through a large portion of the stored solar energy from millions of years gone by.

The only feasible energy source that can serve as a replacement for oil is direct collection of solar power. Trying to collect solar power at the Earth's surface to run all of our modern civilization, however, is not practical: In any given location, the Sun is overhead only part of a day, and may be obscured by clouds in the air or snow on the ground. Solar collectors take up a lot of space, and the power consumed by a city far exceeds the amount of solar power falling directly on it.

Because of the problems with trying to collect it on the ground, solar power is generally ruled out as a viable replacement for oil power. It is those very problems that make it imperative for us to build a network of solar power satellites in orbit, where the Sun is always shining, and beam the power to the ground. Only then can we hope to have enough area in the collectors to be able to gather all of the energy needed to support a power-hungry civilization and make it cheaply available.

Building a constellation of solar power satellites is going to require a tremendous investment, and it's not going to happen overnight. We must get started NOW or the end of civilization predicted above will befall us.


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