To solve the energy challenge, we will have to find a way to produce, every day, not just what we are producing right now, but at least twice that much. We will need to increase our energy output by a minimum factor of two, the generally agreed upon number, certainly by the middle of the century, but preferably well before that—despite the fact that oil and gas will have long since peaked. Considering that many people on the planet are not using much energy at all and that new energy sources have yet to be developed, billions of people would still be living without modern energy.
To give all 10 billion people on the planet the level of energy prosperity we in the developed world are used to, a couple of kilowatt-hours per person, we would need to generate 60 terawatts around the planet—the equivalent of 900 million barrels of oil per day.
In 2004, the late Nobel laureate, Richard Smalley, one of the pioneers of nanotechnology, shared this incisive report on the future of the world’s energy needs. With world population passing 7 billion, this assessment is even more salient seven years later.