AltEnergyTipped by a fine article in SeekingAlpha on Monday, I followed the link to a series of videos.  There are 8 videos of about 9 minutes each.  I cannot think of a better use of time , if you have any concerns for our future, than watching these videos.  Understanding the concepts that Professor Bartlett presents is critical to planning for our future. ( A disclosure: Nothing in this post should be viewed as investment advice.  Another disclosure:  I own oil futures and am betting on oil’s price to rise significantly. )

Now to the post I want you to read and understand.  My apologies in advance if in my haste to get this posted I have an error or two.  The main point is not an error.

Most data show that world population growth has averaged about 1.5% per year for the past 50 years.  The most recent rate is 1.15%.  For sake of argument, let’s predict that world population growth will average 1.38% for the next 50 years.  At that rate, the world population will grow from the current estimate of 6.7 Billion people to 13.4 Billion in the next 50 years, well within the lifetime of most people under the age of majority.

Now, let’s look at some of the consequences of this growth.  Agricultural production will need to double to feed 13.4 billion people.  Infrastructure needs will also double.  We will need twice the housing, twice the sewage treatment, and twice the highways, etc.  Each of these things will rely heavily on a need for more energy, likely twice what we use now.

Now let’s combine this knowledge (the doubling of population within 50 years) with the likelihood of finding and recovering sufficient energy sources over the same time to feed the energy needs of over 13 billion people.  We can argue numbers, but for sake of argument, let’s agree that current world oil consumption is just over 30 billion barrels annually.  Similarly, let’s assume the total world reserves are just over 1.2 Trillion barrels.  Without any growth in demand, 30 billion divided into 1,200 billion equals 40.  Forty years of oil remain, if there is no growth.  If you lay the population growth next to the depletion of our oil reserves, it is not a pretty picture.

If you believe the above scenario, and I think it is very close, what do we need to do to continue our lifestyle?

We could stop population growth.  It is worth considering what it would take to do that since most of the third world is growing at very fast rates. Africa is growing at a rate of well over 2%.  And if we did stop the growth of population, would that also stop the growth in energy use?

We could stop eating as much.  That probably would help most of us with our waistlines.  It might save lots of fuel and fertilizer.

We could discover lots more oil or coal.  I think we have been trying pretty hard for the past 5 years or so using the best technology available and really haven’t found enough to dent the need.

We could learn to use less energy.  This, too, is not real likely.  As third world nations mature and become more like the ‘first world’ modern nations, they tend to do it through the use of lots more, not less, energy.

Or, we could turn to alternative energy.  In 2008, in the US, we generated less than 50 million megawatts of electrical energy from solar and wind energy, a little over 1% of the electrical energy we produced.  President Obama has promised to double this amount in the next three years.  That’s an annual growth rate of over 23%.  First, that is not likely sustainable, but let’s assume we can grow alternatives at 23% per year, worldwide.  Our world generation of alternative energy would have to grow at our rate, also not likely outside of developed nations.  Even if this happened, we would double production every three years.  Again, assuming no growth in energy use, we would produce 2% of our energy from renewables in 3 years (by 2013), 4% by 2016, 8% by 2019, 16% by 2022, and about 1/3rd of our energy by 2025.  In 15 years, by growing alternative energy use by 23%, we can provide about a third of our CURRENT energy use with alternative sources.  In that same period of time, with population growing at 1.38%, our population will grow by just over 22% and with it, our energy use will likely grow a similar amount.

I know I have only included wind and solar, not hydroelectric, not tidal, geothermal, nuclear, etc.  I also know the pitfalls of projecting any growth rate, whether population or energy use or production.  I just have a hard time working out numbers that don’t tell me that:

Energy Production and Use and Population Growth will combine to dramatically alter our lifestyle over the coming years and yet neither seems to be a priority of our government or the governments of the world.

I hope I have stirred your curiosity enough to get you to watch the videos.  I would love for every member of Congress and the President to view them.   I think every man, woman, and child should see them.

Malthus was right.  Population Growth is going to bite us in the butt.

Here is the first of the videos.  Watch it first.  Then,  after viewing the second video Youtube, the link to the next one is always in the yellow bar at the base of the screen.  Do yourself a favor and watch all of them.

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