The dilemma: The
world's population is growing at a rate of 1.3 percent each year,
and the earth's supplies of natural resources are declining rapidly.
What are you going to do about it?
Bartlett, Harvard-educated physics professor emeritus at the University
of Colorado in Boulder, will try to answer the question — or, at
least, spark a discussion — during his talk "Arithmetic, Population
and Energy," to be presented at the Division of Professional Affairs
luncheon on Tuesday, April 20, at the Dallas Convention Center.
likes to point out that throughout most of history, population growth
was flat — but by 1960 it grew to about a 2 percent increase each
growing at 1.3 percent, a growth that "continues to put pressure
on oil, natural gas, coal and other fuels," he said.
believes that world oil will peak this year, and once "at the peak
you're halfway through."
will always be some oil left in the ground," he said, "but then
production goes downhill from then on."
agree with Bartlett — more or less — with some predicting that
world oil will peak before 2010. Others still put the peak in the
late 2020s — at the latest, he said.
basis centers on the statistic that the total amount of all oil
on the earth amounted to 2,000 billion barrels. Assuming a 7 percent
growth in oil production up to 1970, that entire amount would have
been used up by now — however, that hypothesis assumes steady growth,
to mathematical principles, 7 percent growth doubles every 10 years.
that a 7 percent investment will double every 10 years," he said.
"With just modest growth rates, you can see a rate of 7 percent.
By taking natural resources out of the ground, it will expire quickly."
reserves, natural gas is in big trouble, too, he said. Reports have
indicated that natural gas reserves in North America are in a terminal
decline, he added.
been about 20,000 natural wells drilled in the United States and
18,000 in Canada — "but they can't bring new gas on fast enough
to match the decline of other natural gas wells," he said.
believes there will be no relief until six to eight years from now,
when liquefied gas from Indonesia and other Islamic countries can
be transported here.
time, "prices for natural gas will go up rapidly," he said.
think of how much our lives are governed by low-cost petroleum,
this will be a major dislocation," he said. "The impact will be
felt far and wide."
how during the OPEC oil crisis in the 1970s, Montana farmers could
not get diesel fuel for their tractors to do spring planting.
have been a wake-up call," Bartlett said. "We woke up briefly and
then went back to sleep."
1990s, total energy consumption in the United States grew at 13.1
percent while the country's population also grew at 13.1 percent.
per capita consumption was steady," he said. "It was due solely
to population growth."
demand and a steady population growth worldwide, some natural resources
will be depleted in coming years, he said.
not likely to find something we can mine and dig up," Bartlett said.
"What we're left with is solar power and wind power — but these
are trivial. Wind power is an infinitesimal amount of what is used
on the power grids."
it's true that there is enough U.S. coal for the next 500 years,
that is accurate only if 100 percent of the coal is mined and there
is zero growth of coal production over 500 years, he said.
is we've had 2.8 percent coal production in the last 20 years. That
means coal would last just another 70 years," he said. "I remember
being astounded when I calculated that and found it such a short
has presented his talk in 49 states.