The Challenge

Humanity has become critically reliant on abundant, low cost energy from the combustion of fossil fuels that power our technologically advanced civilization.   This dependency makes society highly vulnerable to any contraction in the available fossil fuel energy supply.  Global conditions, however, suggest limits to this fuel supply might develop soon.  Expanding global population coupled with rapid economic growth in the most populous nations on Earth has increased the demands for energy even as major new fossil fuel reserves are becoming harder to access.   Additionally, fossil fuel combustion increases greenhouse gases in our atmosphere, potentially leading to adverse impacts on weather, the oceans, and living conditions. 

Humanity has become critically reliant on abundant, low cost energy from the combustion of fossil fuels that power our technologically advanced civilization

Our society’s ability to react to the consequences of fossil fuel combustion has been confounded by the uncertainty in gauging the magnitude of these consequences.  Although all climate models show the Earth warming in the latter part of this century, the extent of temperature increase is poorly constrained.   Likewise, models for petroleum reserves provide little consensus on exactly when fossil fuels will limit growth; some suggest we have barely enough petroleum to meet current needs, while others hold the more optimistic  view that unconventional crude oil, natural gas, and enhanced oil recovery will provide abundant petroleum for many decades.