In 2011 we like to think of ourselves as a world on the move toward a more sustainable way of living in the hopes that crisis can be averted. Worldwide millions of wind turbines have been put up and thousands more are looking into new solar technologies. But wind and solar power have their own problems as well. And from the looks of it, Britain may be facing a wider problem that could eventually spread and shut down wind power altogether.
In the 1600s, Before oil was put into combustible engines and depended on so heavily for western infrastructure, the idea of an oil shortage was unthinkable. Oil and pitch in the ground were elements that comprised entire regions, not even taking into account the vast reserves that would be eventually discovered beneath them. And then in the 1850s the first commercial oil drilling and refining operations began. Society and the world was about to change. The oil that had once seemed so abundant throughout the world, left behind for millions of years by dead and decaying organic matter would eventually be speculated on, traded, written about, and even killed over. Oil had become a staple in the new societies of the world.
And so left behind in its wake there is a need for energy. As “peak oil” is the word on the mind of many futurists, and many even say it will become scarce within our own lifetimes, there has been a strong push toward looking out for alternatives now rather than later when it will be too late. And wind has come up as a feasible means of generating power.
Wind, just like oil was once rarely considered as a commodity. And now we are finally seeing the first breakdown in wind power as a shift takes place in the Atlantic jet stream. The jet stream, which once faithfully supplied an abundance of wind, has already dropped harvestable wind by 20% in less than a year. And as these shifts continue, even 2010 which was considered the stillest year Britain had seen in decades ended, those projecting the future of wind power and wind farms watched with anticipation in the first few months of 2011. Their findings were just as bleak. While wind power is a promising venture still for the future, there is little doubt that we are currently in the grips of a shortage. And so as the wind dies down the controversy is blowing full force. Do we abandon one form of alternative energy in the hopes that a superior one will be discovered? Or do we tough through it chalking up these two past years as an anomaly?
And if something like the jet stream shifting can have such a drastic effect on the power a given nation receives, is it possible too that one day just as we fight wars for oil there could be wars for control of the wind itself? Perhaps, but in the mean time we will have to see if there’s enough wind to even fight over in the future. Meanwhile, winds in 2011 in the United States have been at times too powerful as tornadoes rip through cities.