7Billion people, Peak Oil, C02 Recapture and Global Markets

My 9 year old budding environmentalist asked over dinner the other night if it was possible to keep the earth cool. It appears that this has been a topic of learning in her 4th grade “weather” module.

What ensued was an interesting discussion between me, the “marketing guy,” my wife the Environmental Scientist by training and trade, and my daughter on what could happen. And oh yeah, we had to talk in terms that a 9 year old (and my 7 year old son) could understand.

What kicked off the conversation is this fascinating article in Fortune Magazine about CO2 recapture technology. My daughter had liked the picture of the big “fans” in the middle of the plains and read a few paragraphs of the article.

This was a new one for me as well. The concept of pulling CO2 out of the air at any kind of scale was something I hadn’t heard of.

We also learned this month that the world’s populate topped 7 Billion people. When I was my daughter’s age, 4 Billion people seemed like a lot, and the concept of “doubling in my lifetime was far too abstract and seemed catastrophic.  How would we feed all of these people? How would we deal with the overcrowding?

The same way we always have, a little bit a time. Slow, incremental changes give us time to adapt. The oceans are not going to rise 2 feet overnight. The population isn’t going to double overnight. Oil isn’t going to stop being produced overnight.

So what did I tell my daughter? I told her that despite the meltdown of 2008, I believe in global markets. At some point oil will be too expensive and alternative energies will become worth it.  Then, market forces will take over. The same with rising oceans, and the same with rising populations. What seems too abstract (7  Billion people?!) will become real as will the solutions, there will be too much at stake.

The idea that you could use recaptured CO2 to grow enough Algae to meet our energy needs in a completely renewable lifecycle is one of those abstract ideas. But as the technology evolves, and the price dynamics of oil change around, the early research being done today might pay off. Only time will tell.

Even if it’s already too late to have a real impact on global warming. Even if Peak Oil has in fact come and gone. Even if we can’t possibly see how we will ever feed 7 or 8 billion people. Because, even with all of that, I believe in the power of Markets and the resiliency of the human race.

And in the end, do we really have a choice?

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One Response

  1. Good one Aaron.

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