Natural gas – the bridge to where?

If you havent already seen the TED speach by T. Boone Pickens, you should get to it. Mr Pickens is a bit more focused on US national security than I would be, but otherwise he delivers an excellent description of the current energy situation. Although his story is US centric, its main message is applicaple to any place in the world: We need to get off coal and oil! And the alternative is natural gas. It is abundant, it is low cost, and it is much cleaner. Clean enough? Well, that’s another question. And this question leads Pickens to admit that natural gas is just a “bridge” fuel, a bridge fuel to whatever comes next. Pickens doesnt know what that is, and he says at his age he doesnt need to worry about it – someone younger must figure it out.

Now, Mr Pickens is a smart man, so if he doesnt know what comes after natural gas, then probably nobody knows. If we take a closer look, the only alternatives that I can see in the long run is electricity or hydrogen, these two energy carriers could pontentially offer zero emissions and still meet world demand, provided that the energy needed to generate electricity or hydrogen are renewable, or at least offers zero emissions. And this is theoretically possible if we allow the use of nuclear power. Wind and solar can deliver a large amount of energy, but they are intermittent sources so nuclear will probably be needed to balance the system. Someone would probably bring up biostuff here, but the problem with bio is that it is not really scalable. At least none of the bioenergy sources I have seen have the potential of covering any significant share of world energy demand, unless we are willing to dedicate areas the size of continents to produce bio feedstock.

Based on currently available technology, and the outlook for technology development, it is very difficult to see what is on the other side of that bridge. So that leaves us with a sort of philosophical question; is it really a “bridge” fuel if we dont know where it lands?

For myself, I am very much result oriented as they call it in all the personality tests. And typical for result oriented people is a need to see at least the contours of a solution – we dont like to get going and make road as we move. So I need to find an answer I believe in – a draft version of sustainable future energy mix.

I’ll ask Twitter for help, follow my account to see how it goes.

What comes after natural gas?

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