Michael Kanellos writes that Richard Smalley, Nobel Prize winner in chemistry in 1996, believes that the global energy situation "may be a greater challenge for us than the Cold War" and that the consequences of ignoring the problem will be terrorism, pestilence, famine.
The problem comes from a dire conflict between supply and demand. The world population and energy demand is growing, but supplies of fossil fuels are inevitably declining. Earth's 6 billion people now consume about 14.5 terawatts of energy a day--the equivalent of about 150 million barrels of oil, Smalley said.
By 2050, the world's population will rise to 10 billion, and energy demand will rise to between 30 terawatts and 60 terawatts (450 million to 900 million barrels of oil a day), according to United Nations data. Unfortunately, oil production will likely peak by 2020 and start declining. Without a change, developing countries will ultimately be left in the dark, and developed countries will struggle to keep the lights on. Conflict is inevitable.
Kanellos points out that some venture capitalists have latched on to alternative energy, but it will take more than VC money to avoid conflict, as Smalley says...