The next OPEC, but in a good way.

It’s doubtful that there’s anyone in the western world who hasn’t heard the acronym OPEC.  For those who don’t know it is a group made up of oil rich developing nations including Iran, Iraq, Saudi Arabia and Libya.  With the ability to strangle oil supplies to much of the world it’s also one of the most politically potent forces on our planet.

But let’s be clear here, it’s days are numbered.  Oil is a limited resource and that resource is dwindling.  Once the oil, in whatever form it may take, is gone, it’s gone and so for all intents and purposes is OPEC.  But nature, societies and politics abhor a vacuum.  Something will replace oil and who ever becomes the greatest net producer of the new oil will replace OPEC.  But that leaves the questions of what, how and who.

Like a great many people I believe the most logical replacement for oil is hydrogen.  It’s plentiful, can be produced in large amounts and once a suitable  infrastructure is in place, can easily take the place of oil for power generation.  So that’s the what.  What about the how?

An Icelandic geothermal power station

Well I think certain countries right now are missing a trick.  Countries like Iceland, Ireland, Japan and many of the pacific ring nations have vast amounts of freely available energy.  For some this is in the form of the geothermal energy which is already tapped in Iceland for heating homes.  For others it’s the immense energy stored in the ocean such as along Atlantic shorelines of Ireland.  This energy, once harnessed, can be used to desalinated sea water, which is then, using more of the same energy source, broken down into hydrogen and oxygen.

This isn’t science fiction.  Geothermal energy and desalination are real.  Look at any shuttle launch and you’re watching the result of industrial scale hydrogen production.  Even wave-farms exist, and will only need some political will in the countries that can support them to make them a more viable reality.

So finally the question of who needs to be answered.  and in that answer is the explanation of why the title of this piece is “The next OPEC, but in a good way.”   There’s no reason why virtually any country with a large but undrinkable water supply can’t produce hydrogen for themselves.  The who could be everyone.  Drill a hole deep enough, approximately 3km, and you’ll get access to geothermal energy.  Use the appropriate technology which can either be homegrown or bought in, and you have your own personal source of commercial fuel.

Part of an honest to goodness real life wave farm in Portugal.

Of course some countries would become large-scale exporters, and some might only be able to produce an internal strategic reserve.  But for the first time in modern history the fear of petrol pumps running dry due to a fit of pique on the other side of the world will cease to be an issue.

So there you have my personal idea of a green energy future.  Just like the start of the oil era it will take money, effort, and a somewhat adventurous spirit to make it a reality.  But as a species we have to find some solution before we consume ourselves into another dark age.

(regular anger riddled, caffeine fueled blogging will resume Saturday)


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