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Before the Wells Run Dry: Ireland's Transition to Renewable Energy

The online book described in the article contains a wealth of data on fossil fuel use and solutions. Although the book was originally put online in 2003, it remains relevant. -BA

Consider these facts:

• A major oil company, BP, adopts the sunflower as its logo and starts saying that its initials stand for "Beyond Petroleum".

• Exxon-Mobil, the world's biggest oil company, says that it is finding it harder and harder to find anywhere to sink new wells.

• The biggest oil-importing country in the world invades the country with the second biggest oil reserves and puts them under its control.

What's going on? The answer is that the world is using oil at four times the rate it is finding it and the output of many existing fields, including the North Sea, is beginning to decline. According to one contributor to this book, global oil production will start falling within the next five to ten years and increases in natural gas output will cease to be capable of making up the shortfall after about 2015.

Whenever it occurs, the decline in oil and gas output will be a turning point in human history since the use of increasing amounts of fossil energy has been the basis of globalization and rapid economic growth. The thirty energy experts who contribute to this book discuss when the turning point will actually happen and whether other energy sources can be developed in time to avert a disastrous energy shortage.

Can nuclear energy fill the gap? It can't do it alone because, even leaving the waste problem aside, there's only enough uranium for about sixty years.

And what about coal? There's plenty in the ground but it's a dirty fuel whose greater use would accelerate global warming.

And how do renewable energy sources - wind, waves, tides, biomass, hydro and the sun - really stack up? Which technologies are ready for massive investments to begin?

This groundbreaking book explores these and many other issues and its authors conclude that renewables do indeed have the capacity to provide the people of Europe with all the energy they need to live comfortable lives without using coal or nuclear energy at all. Moreover, the switch could be made within fifty years if the right decisions are taken immediately.

Several authors explore the effects that increasing oil scarcity will have on Ireland which, besides being the seventh most heavily oil-dependent country in the world, has some of the best potential renewable energy sources in Europe. No part of Irish life will escape the changes that scarce, expensive gas and oil will bring. Besides energy supplies, settlement patterns, building design, transport systems and arrangements for sewage disposal will have to be transformed. The book concludes that the massive transition can only be accomplished satisfactorily if work on it is begun, in earnest, right away.

"The impending energy crisis is the most neglected question of our time. Thank goodness someone is taking it head-on" - George Monbiot

Distributed in Ireland by the Lilliput Press and in the UK by Green Books Ltd. [See original article for details on ordering hard copies. The entire book is viewable online.]

Editorial Notes: You can view the entire book online via the original article, or go directly to the sitemap for the book. The book contains almost 50 chapters and the hardcopy version runs to 336 pages. More than 30 authors contributed. The book is based on papers given at the conference, Ireland's Transition to Renewable Energy, held in Autumn 2002. Foundation for the Economics of Sustainability (feasta) has many other publications online at its website www.feasta.org/ . -BA

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