In the past few hundred years, the world has changed dramatically. More than the natural evolution of a species, we have shaped and altered the very planet we live on through our colossal, ever-increasing thirst for energy, whether we generate it through fossil fuels, nuclear or renewable means, as with the Wyre Eco-THEP (Tidal Hydro Energy Plant).
For better or for worse, we have ravaged the Earth almost to breaking point. Without fail, each new energy discovery or technology brings with it affluence, closely followed by serious overconsumption.
So it’s now, as a global population, we must make some tough decisions about how we generate energy, and how we treat our home.
But how did we get here in the first place, and can projects like the Wyre Eco-THEP stop an energy crisis on a global scale?
Man Discovers Fire
To look forwards, we first have to look back. Far, far back.
The Wyre Eco-THEP is not a new idea. Almost since the human race began, we have been utilising natural resources on the planet for energy. One of the very first human discoveries of all was the ability to create fire, heat, and therefore energy, from wood.
Limited only by a person’s ability to make a spark, burning wood has been used to light fires and warm homes for millennia. But it was with mankind’s desire for exploration that it really came into its own.
In the 18th century, trains were pulled on the tracks by horses, similar to a horse drawn cart, and not a great deal faster. But it was in 1784 that famed Scottish engineer William Murdoch designed and constructed the very first steam locomotive, powered by the burning of wood.
All the way up until 1870, steam engines were helping people to travel around Britain, America and the world faster than ever before. But this new mobility came at a cost.
Trains were expending well in excess of a cord of wood per hour, a cord being a woodpile of approximately 4ft x 4ft x 8ft (around 85 cubic feet). At this massive rate of consumption, the USA alone was burning 3.6million cords of wood every year, which required more than 14,000 square kilometres of forest annually.
Firewood may well be a renewable resource, due to our species’ insatiable desire to explore and startling lack of compromise, our demand for wood far outpaced our means and ability to regenerate it.
This led to a huge shortage, resulting in a massively inflated price. What could fill the void? Perhaps an up and coming energy source known as coal.
Coal and the Industrial Revolution
Although people had known about coal’s energy generating properties since the 1700s, it wasn’t until the Industrial Revolution that experts realised how much hotter and cleaner coal burned than wood. Compared to wood-based fuels, including wood charcoal, coal yielded a much higher amount of energy, as well as being readily available in areas without a consistent source of useable wood.
All of this combined put coal in the perfect position to take off in place of the limited and costly fuel source of wood.
Not only were trains able to travel further and faster than ever before, but consuming energy was beginning to become part of daily life. Coal-powered electricity was illuminating homes, heating furnaces and lighting stoves so that the average person could cook with ease.
But more possible uses for coal, and the fact that it was a more abundant resource, meant that we were using it more quickly than anyone could have predicted. Coalmines popped up across the country and across the world, barely managing to keep up with the huge demand.
What’s more, we knew it wasn’t the perfect resource–the smog and black clouds put that thought to bed–however it wouldn’t be until well into the 20th century that we would figure out just how much damage coal could do.
As well as emitting harmful waste, such as carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and arsenic, the mining industry was a hotbed of injuries and fatalities due to the dangers of the work.
This really hit home in 1952 when one of Britain’s biggest disasters struck. The uncharacteristically cold weather combined with an anticyclone dispersed the airborne pollutants from the chimneys of London to form a thick, dark layer of smog over the entire city.
The Great Smog lasted for days and the death toll was gargantuan. Estimates range anywhere from 4,000 to 12,000 deaths, with as many as 100,000 more suffering from damaged respiratory systems.
With renewable sources like the River Wyre Tidal Hydro Energy Plant many years away, another solution was needed, and fast.
If you’d have said the word ‘oil’ to anyone in the 16th century, they would have assumed you were talking about whale oil.
This substance, obtained from the blubber of whales, was used in oil lamps, as well as soap and margarine all the way up to 1853 when a man called George Bissell discovered something interesting in Pennsylvania.
He noticed that the local medical professionals would treat patients with the black, whale oil-like substance sometimes found in puddles. He rightly predicted that this substance was so similar to whale oil, that it could be used to completely replace it in oil lamps.
This surface oil, was easier, cheaper and less dangerous to obtain than whale oil, but Bissell couldn’t help thinking that if there was so much of it coming to the surface, there must be a way to speed up the process and go direct to the source.
He partnered up with a New York train conducted named Edmund Drake who came up with the basic technique of drilling down into the Earth until oil was struck–a technique that has remained virtually identical to this day, despite technological advancements and significant increases in scale.
Bissell and Drake’s new endeavour was so lucrative that within a few short years, 75 oil wells had popped up around their spot in Titusville, Pennsylvania. By 1860, 1million barrels of oil were being produced on a regular basis.
The oil market went from strength to strength, making millionaires out of forward-thinking entrepreneurs like John D. Rockerfeller and the Nobel Brothers.
But with the advent of electricity, and especially Thomas Edison’s light bulb in 1882, the industry briefly went through something of a panic. With clean, safe and convenient electricity, who would need oil?
Horseless Carriages Save the Day
The saviour of oil came, once again, from the transport industry–this time in the form of the automobile. These new cars needed fuel, and the gasoline found in oil was just the thing.
From here, the world’s addiction to oil snowballed.
At the beginning of the 20th century, on the eve of what would become known as the Great War, the world’s military began utilising oil to drastically improve the speed and efficiency of their vehicles and weapons. German gunboats and British tanks could now travel further at double the speed.
With the war looming, and with no oil supply to call our own, the British government made an agreement unlike any that had come before; the Anglo-Persian Oil Company entered into a contract to supply oil exclusively to Britain, and our government owned a 51% share.
For the first time in history, an entire nation had a stake in the oil industry, and it only got more political from there.
A New Era
By the time the Second World War hit, most of the world’s oil production was located in the Middle East. The Iraq Petroleum Company, which set out to unify all the region’s oil production companies into one monopoly, attempted to emulate the success of Rockerfeller’s Standard Oil before it.
As is to be expected, the war consumed oil at an enormous rate, with production of weapons and military vehicles ramped up to previously unheard of amounts, as well as the fuel these vehicles needed.
Oil was the world’s currency, and some argue the war was won on it. The German army headed for the oil-rich city of Baku in Azerbaijan but ran out of fuel long before they got there. Meanwhile, Churchill and the Allies made a direct attack on Hitler’s Romanian oil reserves, leaving them with nothing.
However, the end of the war didn’t mean oil was consumed any slower. On the contrary, with less military applications, the industry got creative. Plastic kids’ toys, nylon tights, linoleum flooring, washing detergent, toothpaste–all of these items couldn’t exist as we know them today without oil.
This all lead to huge expansion of wealth in the Middle East, with major cities like Dubai and Abu Dhabi popping up almost overnight.
Too Much Oil?
By the 70s, oil drill technology had come on so far that it seemed as if every other week there were new discoveries. Halfway through the decade, we struck oil off the coast of the North Sea–1.8billion barrels of it, in fact. But the problem was, so had everyone else.
While Britain finally had some oil that we could call our own, and it managed to pull us out of a particularly nasty recession, worldwide oil rates were dropping at an exponential rate due to an abundance of the stuff all around the world.
The reduced costs brought companies tumbling down, and even caused the dissolution of the Soviet Union, who’s primary export was its vast supplies of oil.
The End of Easy Oil
Unfortunately, compared to the endless supply of water needed by the Wyre Eco-THEP, oil is a alarmingly finite resource. Just as quickly as we were overproducing oil, the supplies began to dry up. Aged oil wells filled with water and collapsed on themselves. Amounts of easily accessibly oil near the Earth’s surface dwindled. And all the while, demand for oil was increasing as we manufactured more and more products that we needed every day.
Last year, the amount of cars on the planet passed the 1billion mark. More than 1billion active cars now roam the Earth. That’s a lot of oil needed to make them, and even more needed to run them.
Since George Bissell first struck oil all those years ago, we have craved it. Demand has steadily and gradually increased. But if we don’t make some changes soon, it won’t belong before peak oil is reached.
World leading experts have developed new techniques and technologies, like fracking, that help us get to harder to reach oil within the Earth.
But even if we’re able to drill further and harder into the Earth, should we? We’re slowly damaging our home and the atmosphere that surrounds us, so we have to find another way. We have to take advantage of the technology that is so readily available to us. The Wyre Eco-THEP and developments like it solve so many of our planet’s problems, but it is down to our governments to embrace these schemes before it’s too late.
Around the world, enterprises like the Natural Energy Wyre Eco-THEP are charging forward, focussing on measures we can take to protect the planet.
We must force the governments of the world to reinvest their oil money in the renewable industry–in tidal, hydroelectric, solar and wind.
To be in with a chance of saving our home, we must make changes on a global scale. For all the EU enforced treaties, or renewable UN agreements, there are no legal implications for not taking part in a sustainable future.
We must all voice our support for the Wyre Eco-THEP because if we don’t, we’ll no longer have a planet to protect.
Act now. Spread the word about the Wyre Eco-THEP to your friends, your business contacts and to your local councillors. Together, we can make a difference and help to save this planet.