Gilbert stated that ‘peak oil’, the point at which global oil production peaks and begins to decline is likely to occur around 2012. He cited the analysis of oil geologist Colin Campbell of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil (ASPO), whose oil supply fears have been echoed by the International Energy Agency (IEA) in their Medium Term Oil Supply Report of July 2007, which predicts a ‘supply crunch’ by 2012. Just last week, Shell CEO Jeroen van der Veer warned of oil shortages by 2015.
Gilbert argued that the most efficient transport fuel in an oil-constrained world will be electricity, generated largely from renewable sources. "Grid connected vehicles are going to see a resurgence", said Gilbert. He offered as an example the grid-connected light rail system in Calgary, which loses only 10% of its original energy input. Hydrogen fuel cells lose around 75%, while electric batteries lose around 30%.
He predicted that over the next twenty years the US and Europe will see increased investment in electrified rail, and in grid-connected trolley buses and trucks for intercity travel and freight. High oil prices would change the nature of aviation too, so that airlines would be likely to operate fewer flights carrying more people between fewer airports.
Gilbert suggested that the electric revolution will be driven by solar thermal electricity generation, where parabolic mirrors reflect the sun’s rays onto water, producing steam to run turbines. He said that 100 square km of Californian desert dedicated to solar thermal power plants could satisfy current US electricity demand, though if land-based transport in the US were fully electrified Gilbert suggested that electricity demand would increase 45% on existing levels. A similar size solar thermal plant in the Sahara Desert could supply all of Europe’s electricity. Tidal barrages, marine currents and wave energy would also contribute substantially to the UK’s grid.
You can listen to Richard Gilbert’s presentation to APPGOPO here:
A related electricity generation idea:
"A high voltage electricity grid connecting countries from the North Sea to the Bay of Biscay could provide almost a third of Europe's power by 2030, according to the company behind the idea. The system would improve energy security, cut emissions, and even reduce the price of power at times of peak demand."