Resource Depletion is a Bigger Threat than Climate Change

April 9, 2012 • Climate Change & Mitigation, Daily Email Recap

Bill Ryerson sent me the link to the following interview, featuring energy specialist Dr. Tom Murphy, an associate professor of physics at the University of California. If you are interested in the “future of energy”, this will no doubt be an enjoyable read for you. See: (You may also find Dr. Murphy’s “Do The Math” blog to be of interest):

“It is no surprise that the phenomenal surge in population and living standards/expectations in the last few hundred years – both a direct consequence of exploiting our fossil fuel inheritance – should be exposing fault lines every which way. “

Resource Depletion is a Bigger Threat than Climate Change

Tom Murphy interview with James Stafford, March 25th, 2012

Rising geopolitical tensions and high oil prices are continuing to help renewable energy find favour amongst investors and politicians. Yet how much faith should we place in renewables to make up the shortfall in fossil fuels? Can science really solve our energy problems, and which sectors offers the best hope for our energy future?

To help us get to the bottom of this we spoke with energy specialist Dr. Tom Murphy, an associate professor of physics at the University of California. Tom runs the popular energy blog Do the Math which takes an astrophysicist’s-eye view of societal issues relating to energy production, climate change, and economic growth.

In the interview Tom talks about the following:

  • Why we shouldn’t get too excited over the shale boom
  • Why resource depletion is a greater threat than climate change
  • Why Fukushima should not be seen as a reason to abandon nuclear
  • Why the Keystone XL pipeline may do little to help US energy security
  • Why renewables have difficulty mitigating a liquid fuels shortage
  • Why we shouldn’t rely on science to solve our energy problems
  • Forget fusion and thorium breeders – artificial photosynthesis would be a bigger game changer Whilst you have proven that no renewable energy source can replace fossil fuels on its own. Which source is the most promising for providing cheap, abundant, clean energy?

Tom Murphy: First let me say that I think “proven” is too strong a word.  But yes, I have certainly indicated as much.  When it comes to cheap, clean, and abundant, I am drawn to solar.  I don’t care if it’s two or three times the cost of fossil fuel energy – that’s still cheap. Abundance is unquestionable, and I don’t see manufacturing as being inordinately caustic. The fact that I have panels on my roof feeding batteries in my garage only confirms for me the viability of this source of energy. Wind and next-generation nuclear also deserve mention as potential large-scale sources. Yet none of these help directly with a liquid fuels shortage. Bill Gates has stated that innovation in energy can take 50-60 years to take effect. How then do you believe that that the ARPA-E’s short term objectives for projects can be helpful for solving current energy problems?

Tom Murphy: I applaud any effort that takes our energy challenge seriously, and gets boots on the ground chasing all manner of ideas.  If nothing else, it raises awareness about our predicament.  At the same time, I worry about our technofix culture with a tendency to interpret news clips about ARPA-E projects to mean that we have loads of viable solutions in the hopper. Many of the ideas are just batty.  And right – to the extent that implantation of innovation can take decades, we may find ourselves in a squeeze – wondering where all those funky news blurbs went.

To read the full interview, please click here:

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