World Oil Consumption of 548,000 Barrels per Day --
Is is really possible? 

Continued from A Difficult Transition -- Energy, Lifestyle, and Population

From Reflections on the Worthiness of Human Creation
by K. T. Chang
We have chosen to ignore the reality of the need to adjust to a steep decline in energy supply. But let me think the unthinkable – that America, along with the rest of the world, has decided to re-create the margin of safety in fossil fuel for posterity. If we keep the US share of oil consumption at 25 percent of global consumption, then it comes to 137,000 bpd.

This may look puny, impossible, when compared to our actual usage rate at 21 million bpd. But wait! China in 1960 had a population of some 600 million, and it did survive on much less than 10,000 bpd. If we go back another 100 years, 1860, one year after the Pennsylvania oil strike, a world population of over a billion was getting by on Zero bpd. In 1986, when I revisited China after retirement, I was concerned about China’s rising use of coal, both for development and export. I checked with Huang Teng (China’s coal export manager at that time and a family relative), and he assured me that China’s reserve would easily last 3000 years. Today, the remaining reserve is worth only 40 years. China is importing coal from Australia, from Brazil, from anywhere on Earth that has coal to sell. The only limit to China’s appetite for energy consumption seems to be exhaustion of life-sustaining clean water for its people. This is the forgotten gift from the Creator that too many of us took for granted.

In proper perspective, then, for America to survive and prosper on an oil consumption rate of low numbers is entirely feasible. Remember that we are now assisted by a huge renewable energy technology input, plus conversion of part of the food supply to biofuel. By and large, we just need to get off the pedestal of extravagant lifestyle and hypocritical concern for saving surplus lives.

Some of my readers may not be persuaded that this usage-matching law is practicable. Let me point out that maintaining the status quo on energy usage will exhaust both petroleum and natural gas within this century, and coal could possibly last another century longer. At the same time, technology innovations have brought on a modern lifestyle absolutely incompatible with executing all our activities by a labor force of humans and working animals only. The sum total of renewable energy sources will not be able to take over the workload presently performed by fossil fuel. We can either face the problem now, saving most of the fossil fuel for the future and as an emergency backup, or we can put mankind’s survival at risk, continue spending the inexpansible, and let the future generations face the same problem but without a safety net.

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©2008 K. T. Chang. All rights reserved.