The Question – Planned or to be Planned

We’re quickly depleting the Earth’s stores of non-renewable energy. Oddly, the date for absolute depletion keeps getting extended outward. Noting this, some people proclaim that non-renewables will endure forever. They say that economic theory will control consumption and thus ensure continued availability. And they also say that the future will be rosy. Is this forecast reasonable?

In response, let’s consider economic theory as it relates to energy supply. As energy demand exceeds supply then cost increases, which thus reduces the demand. This is economically reasonable. But is it valid if energy is an essential commodity? Let’s look at an example. Most of today’s advanced societies rely upon ready, inexpensive transportation. If energy costs increase, such as with a carbon tax, then, presumably, consumption falls. Yet, we don’t see any indication of consumption falling. Indeed, with populations increasing and desire for evermore technology, then we expect energy consumption to continue to increase apparently with minimal impact from cost. For transportation, our insatiable demand for energy isn’t following the dictates of economic theory, leading us to presume that energy is an essential commodity.

This example leads us to ponder the expectation for a rosy future. As long as there’s unlimited energy supply, then owning a vehicle or enabling a technology is inconsequential. For example, data centres, at the heart of the new information technology, consume about 500TW per year (1.6e22J). But what if energy supplies become constrained? Do we react by excising technologies? Do we plan for this drop-off of energy supply? Have plans already been made? Did you provide comments to these plans? Let us know.
Redwing black bird