Shedding light on the horizon

Michel Claessens
Michel Claessens
Editor in chief

We are eating oil (see page 40). This issue is a reminder of the omnipresence of oil – or “black gold” – in our everyday lives. The symbolic US$100 a barrel mark and the proximity of peak oil signal the beginning of a heralded end. There is but one certainty: humankind and the planet are engaged in a process of metamorphosis. How will we live in the post-carbon society? This is the pertinent question, since it sparks so many different answers! In opening the doors of the laboratories, this issue shows that, initially, research is set paradoxically to strengthen the use of fossil hydrocarbons. Beyond that, the future becomes clouded and the scenarios diverge and intersect. No energy dominates and they all seem necessary. There is some light on the horizon, such as the recent HyWays European project that has concluded that hydrogen has a seemingly bright future. Its use could reduce oil consumption in the transport sector by as much as 40% by 2050. We also know that “agri” fuels are not the panacea, and that solutions will also come from the emerging countries.

But these many and very real possibilities ultimately fade into conjecture. What remains is the concern of the citizen who is already feeling the consequences of this major change in day-to-day life, with price rises, climate change, and depletion of resources. To the point where some are even reluctant to continue living as they do now… To all these people this issue will hopefully provide a little ray of hope. Current research looks very promising.

The imminent change heralds a renaissance. A world that may not be better but that will be sustainable. Because it is either that or no world at all.