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[学习类] Richard Sears: Planning for the end of oil









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曼拓教育 发表于 2016-10-7 15:04:44
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本帖最后由 曼拓教育 于 2016-10-7 15:10 编辑

相关学科:新兴能源与可再生能源(renewable energy)

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For the next few minutes we're going to talk aboutenergy, and it's going to be a bit of a varied talk. I'll try to spina story about energy, and oil's a convenient startingplace. The talk will be broadly about energy, but oil's a good place tostart. And one of the reasons is this is remarkable stuff. You takeabout eight or so carbon atoms, about 20 hydrogenatoms, you put them together in exactly the right way and you getthis marvellous liquid: very energy-dense andvery easy torefine into a number of very useful products andfuels. It's great stuff. Now, as far as it goes, there'sa lot of oil out there in the world.

Here's my little pocket map of where it's alllocated. A bigger one for you to look at. But this is it, this is theoil in the world. Geologists have a pretty good idea of wherethe oil is. This is about 100 trillion gallons of crudeoil still to be developed and produced in the world today. Now,that's just one story about oil, and we could end it there and say, "Well,oil's going to last forever because, well, there's just a lot of it."But there's actually more to the story than that. Oh, by the way, if youthink you're very far from some of this oil, 1000 meters below where you'reall sitting is one of the largest producing oil fields in the world. Cometalk to me about it, I'll fill in some of the details if you want.

So, that's one of the stories of oil; there's just alot of it. But what about oil? Where is it in the energysystem? Here's a little snapshot of 150 years ofoil, and it's been adominant part of our energy system formost of those 150 years. Now, here's another little secret I'm going totell you about: For the last 25 years, oil has been playing less andless of a role in global energy systems. There was one kind of peakoil in 1985, when oil represented 50 percent of global energysupply. Now, it's about 35 percent. It's been declining and Ibelieve it will continue to decline. Gasolineconsumption in theU.S. probably peaked in 2007 and is declining.So oil is playing a lesssignificant role every year. And so, 25 years ago, there was apeak oil; just like, in the 1920s, there was a peak coal; and ahundred years before that, there was a peak wood. This is a veryimportant picture of the evolution of energy systems. And what's beentaking up the slack in the last few decades? Well, a lotof natural gas and a little bit of nuclear, forstarters. And what goes on in the future? Well, I think out ahead ofus a few decades is peak gas, and beyond that, peak renewables.

Now, I'll tell you another little, very important storyabout this picture. Now, I'm not pretending that energy use intotal isn't increasing, it is -- that's another part of the story.Come talk to me about it, we'll fill in some of the details -- butthere's a very important message here: This is 200 years ofhistory, and for 200 years we've beensystematically decarbonising ourenergy system. Energy systems of the world becoming progressively -- yearon year, decade on decade, century on century -- becoming less carbonintense. And that continues into the future with the renewablesthat we're developing today, reaching maybe 30 percent of primaryenergy by mid-century. Now that might be the end of the story– Okay, we just replace it all with conventional renewables -- but Ithink, actually, there's more to the story than that.

And to tell the next part of the story – and thisis looking out say 2100 and beyond. What is the future of trulysustainable, carbon-free energy? Well, we have to take a little excursion, andwe'll start in central Texas. Here's a piece of limestone. I pickedit up outside of Marble Falls, Texas. It's about 400 million yearsold. And it's just limestone, nothing really special about it. Now,here's a piece of chalk. I picked this up at MIT. It's a littleyounger. And it's different than this limestone, you can seethat. You wouldn't build a building out of this stuff, and youwouldn't try to give a lecture and write on the chalkboard withthis. Yeah, it's very different -- no, it's not different. It's notdifferent, it's the same stuff: calcium carbonate, calciumcarbonate. What's different is how the molecules areput together.

Now, if you think that's kind of neat, the storygets really neat right now. Off the coast of California comesthis: It's an abalone shell. Now, millions ofabalone every year make this shell. Oh, by the way, just in case youweren't already guessing, it's calcium carbonate. It's the same stuffas this and the same stuff as this. But it's not the same stuff; it'sdifferent. It's thousands of times, maybe 3,000 times tougher thanthis. And why? Because the lowly abalone isable to lay down the calcium carbonate crystals in layers, making this beautiful, iridescent motherof pearl. Very specialized material that the abaloneself-assembles, millions of abalone, all the time, every day, everyyear. This is pretty incredible stuff. All the same, what'sdifferent? How the molecules are put together.

Now, what does this have to do withenergy? Here's a piece of coal. And I'll suggest that thiscoal is about as exciting as this chalk. Now, whether we'retalking about fuels or energy carriers, or perhaps novel materialsfor batteries or fuel cells, nature hasn't ever built those perfectmaterials yet because nature didn't need to. Nature didn't need tobecause, unlike the abalone shell, the survival of a species didn't depend onbuilding those materials, until maybe now when it might justmatter. So, when we think about the future ofenergy, imagine what it would be like if instead ofthis, we could build the energy equivalent ofthis just by rearranging the molecules differently.

And so that is my story. The oil will never runout. It's not because we have a lot of it. It's not because we'regoing to build a billion windmills. It's because, well, thousands ofyears ago, people invented ideas -- they had ideas, innovations,technology -- and the Stone Age ended, not because we ran out ofstones. It's ideas, it's innovation, it's technology that will endthe age of oil, long before we run out of oil.

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