A World Without Fossil Fuels

The events of my science fiction novel Truth-Teller Rebellion take place two thousand years from now in the Pacific Northwest. Fossil fuels are ancient history that my protagonist Cary Bishop has only read about. The average person in Cary’s home town of New Hanford consumes a fifth of the energy used by an American today. No transcontinental jets soar overhead in Cary’s day, just small solar and hydrogen powered solplanes. Ground transportation is by tramrail, an efficient electric powered train. Battery powered trucks ply the streets, but only the rich or powerful have personal electric cars. Ocean transportation is via cargo ships with computer-controlled sails. The world is more regional and insular than today’s. Cary doesn’t eat apples flown in from New Zealand or munch on Chilean grapes.

Despite the regionalization, the overall standard of living in New Hanford is good because of the Pacific Northwest’s excellent sources of hydro and wind energy. Computer technology ensures the superefficient use of this energy. Medical advances have all but eliminated cancer, most body parts are replaceable, and the average lifespan is a hundred and thirty years. Nonetheless civilization is hampered by a shortage of energy and metals. And while water is plentiful in the Pacific Northwest, the drawdown of aquifers over a thousand years earlier has left North America’s Midwest a sparsely inhabited semi-arid wasteland.

The back history of Truth-Teller Rebellion is that the transition from today to Cary’s world was tumultuous. A nuclear war was fought over the dregs of the Middle Eastern oil fields. Wars and famine then took their toll across the globe. The populations of Africa, South America and Asia, which have grown the most over the past fifty years, had the greatest and most painful decline.

The troubled Truth-Teller Rebellion transition scenario is a very plausible one, maybe even the most probable. Mankind has never been very good at long range planning. Our government struggles to create a one-year budget much less a farsighted energy plan. Some people just don’t care about something that will happen thirty or fifty or a hundred years from now. After all, like John Maynard Keynes said, “in the long run we are all dead.” Others do care, but don’t know what they can do.

Global warming has captured the world’s attention and produced at least a modicum of planning for it. The coming energy shortage is an even more serious crisis. How we deal with this looming problem will define the future of mankind.

 

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