Future Energy Architecture Will Have Solar at Its Core


". . . oil itself is ancient solar energy."

After spending nearly 10 years studying energy, coal, uranium, natural gas, solar, wind, government policy, and of course the master commodity, oil, I have pretty much come up with a working model for how I think the next decade or two will play out. As for biofuels, they will play no significant role in the world's energy mix. And while all the other fossil fuels show some possibilities for enhanced use—and here I am thinking mainly of natural gas and coal—I remain committed to oil as the miracle, concentrated energy source that can be increasingly leveraged to build out a future energy architecture.

That future energy architecture in my view will have at its core solar energy, which is kind of a nice story, poetically speaking, because oil itself is ancient solar energy. States, regions, and countries that either have the ability or are already monetizing their oil inheritance and using the proceeds to build large array solar should be watched.

In my Oil to Solar model, the world will increasingly migrate to more efficient use of oil, thus distributing oil's concentrated power more deeply into the world's population of 6.7 billion people. This means each person in the Western OECD countries will use a lot less oil—so that 25 people in the developing countries can use oil just a little bit more, or use oil for the very first time. The global solar buildout wave, while currently underway in both developed and developing countries, will eventually accelerate in the developed world, where the legacy automobile grid is a disadvantage, but where the legacy electrical grid is a big plus.

The Oil to Solar model will, in my opinion, receive lots of marginal help from other fossil fuels and other alternative energy, such as wind. In addition, it's still not clear that an electrical grid can be anchored by Solar (though work is being done in this area as well). So it's likely that nuclear, coal, and natural gas will continue to play a role, even long-term roles. But as a model for both investment, and policy, and as a way to avoid such dead-ends as biofuels, I think it will work as a guide for the next two decades.

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