Day: Jul 16, 2015

The New Revolution

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Most people don’t know it, but there’s a quiet revolution going on. A revolution in energy supply.

Ever since the dawn of the first industrial revolution, when wood burning gave way to the first water wheels and windmills, and lignite burning, peat burning and then coal, energy has driven the economy. The new energy materials and technologies spurred the industrial revolution, releasing and then capturing that energy made mass production possible, bringing consumer products to the masses.

A second revolution happened in 1901, as oil which had been used in lamps for centuries, and used in petroleum as early as 1870, became cheap enough to drive the second wave of energy use, when Spindletop reservoir in Texas gushed forth, and the U.S. oil supply doubled in an instant. The oil-well took nine days to bring under control, and supplied 100,000 barrels of oil per day, wasting almost a million barrels of oil. However, that spurred further exploration, and all that added oil, made the mass-produced car, the plane and the modern economy possible.

Diesels, plastics, pharmaceuticals and modern agri-business with its NPK based fertilizer, were all made possible from oil. The discovery and development of these new technologies enabled them to win both world wars as technological advantage in the form of military superiority and the cost of moving men, supplies and machines to their required location all worked in their favour. But the spike to $147 per barrel in 2007, plus the talk of “Peak Oil” which was prevalent during the early 2000s, ushered in research into alternatives. And the dominance of oil producers in the unstable Middle-Eastern region was a powerful driver.

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