Figure 20.1 Alternative estimates of world ultimate resources of conventional oil. (a) Estimated petroleum production until 2100 (Colin Campbell, 26.09.2005). (b) Estimated conventional oil and natural gas liquid reserves until 2030 (USGS 2000).
allowed to degenerate into a debate over whether we are running out of energy or whether seemingly infinite capacities of human ingenuity and human institutions will always find alternatives. The view that we must inevitably run out of apparently finite resources runs counter to human history, which is full of examples of increased knowledge and innovation overcoming apparent limitations. Nevertheless, the assertion that because solutions seem always to have been found in the past they will always be found in the future can too easily lead to complacency. We may fail to anticipate, plan, regulate, and research; that is, we may fail to do the very things that have often led to acceptable solutions in the past.
Measuring the sustainability of energy resources is about measuring whether we are expanding or creating energy resources fast enough to be confident that we are not reducing the opportunities for future generations to achieve a level of well-being at least as good as our own. This requires measuring the extent of energy resource stocks, measuring their rates of use, measuring the rates at which existing resources are being expanded and new resources are being created, measuring our ability to transform energy into energy services, and, perhaps most difficult of all, measuring the ability of energy services to contribute to human well-being. This chapter considers how progress might begin to be made toward an integrated measurement of the energy sustainabil-ity of human society.
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