Before the Wells Run Dry
Ireland's Transition to Renewable Energy
Publication Date: October 2003
Before the Wells Run Dry: Ireland’s Transition to Renewable Energy by Richard Douthwaite
‘The contributors’ articles forced me to conclude that a determined switch to renewable sources of energy – such as solar and wind power – should start immediately. Failing that, there won’t be enough fossil energy left to carry out the transition and most of humanity will be reduced to living in grinding poverty in an energy-starved world.’ —Richard Douthwaite
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 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 work? Which technologies are ready for massive investments to begin?
This ground-breaking book explores these and many other issues and its authors conclude that renewable energy sources do indeed have the capacity to provide the people of Europe with all the energy it needs – without using coal or nuclear energy. Moreover the switch could be made within fifty years, if the right decisions are taken immediately.
In Before the Wells Run Dry, 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
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Richard Douthwaite is the author of three books on economic and energy issues: The Growth Illusion, The Ecology of Money and Short Circuit.
CUSTOMERS IN BRITAIN (EXCLUDING NORTHERN IRELAND) PLEASE NOTE THAT THIS BOOK IS ONLY AVAILABLE FROM GREEN BOOKS AND NOT FROM THE LILLIPUT PRESS.