Ressources naturelles, énergie, environnement
Cette page regroupe l'ensemble des publications de Futuribles sur cette thématique (Vigie, revue, bibliographie, études, etc.)
The world economy cannot function without oil, notably because the transport sector relies so heavily upon it. Yet the forecasts of supply and demand for hydrocarbons differ widely depending on the expert source consulted.
Even though they are not much discussed in the institutional publications, major controversies surround the estimates of the total reserves that could be extracted in future. The most optimistic forecasts are based on the fact that the amount of proven reserves has never stopped growing over the last 50 years, thanks above all to technological progress and the exploitation of new, deep-sea fields; the optimists assume that past trends will continue and they reckon that there is no reason to fear shortages for another 40, if not 80, years.
By contrast, the most pessimistic experts argue that oil is a finite resource and the main oil-producing regions were discovered long ago. Since consumption rates now exceed discovery rates and technical progress has its limits, they calculate on the basis of discovery rates in the past that conventional and unconventional oil production might reach a maximum of 90 million barrels per day by 2015-2030, but after that it will decline inexorably.
Jean Laherrère, an expert on oil reserves, sums up the present situation and the forecasts of likely future changes in world oil reserves. His approach is rather pessimistic, stressing that the published figures on reserves tend to be highly political and must be viewed with caution, above all because there are no agreed definitions of what is being evaluated. He presents the various estimates of final hydrocarbon reserves (i.e. total production plus known reserves plus estimates of undiscovered reserves), and the range of factors affecting the forecasts. His conclusion does not beat about the bush: we must quickly check oil consumption (if necessary by raising prices significantly) if we are to satisfy our future energy needs.
This article by Pierre Radanne summarizes in a few pages the key challenges raised by the third energy crisis that has been affecting the world for the past year or so. He first offers a brief description of the cyclical nature of energy and then goes on to describe how this recent crisis developed, stressing the way that concerns about climate change have put the present oil shock on a very different plane to previous ones. The challenge now is at a much broader level, relating to how people live: Western lifestyles cannot be adopted by the whole planet; consequently it is imperative that the industrialized countries seek new patterns of behaviour that reduce energy consumption. Pierre Radanne argues that public authorities, especially in Europe, must rank their priorities and establish long-term strategies, involving a certain "re-regulation" of the energy sector. He concludes that it is essential to be equipped to make a success of the 21st century by using the energy sector as a vector for tackling the problems of climate change and an approach to creating a new form of civilization for the whole planet.
Les scénarios du WBCSD (World Busines Council for Sustainable Development), réseau qui rassemble plus de 180 entreprises internationales engagées pour le développement durable, portent sur le rôle des entreprises par rapport à la question de plus en plus prégnante des ressources mondiales en eau. Sont d'abord identifiés les facteurs de changement : les hommes (la croissance démographique, l'urbanisation, les modes de vie...), la planète (l'écosystème, la diminution de la biodiversité, le réchauffement...), l'héritage du passé (les infrastructures ...
(413 more words)
La Commission européenne a mis à jour son étude de 2003 sur l'énergie et les transports à l'horizon 2030, European Energy and Transport : Trends to 2030. Ce rapport est à la fois un outil de suivi et un bilan des politiques européennes dans les domaines de l'énergie et du transport. Il met en avant les difficultés actuelles et à venir de l'Union européenne (UE) à respecter ses différents engagements, notamment ceux concernant les énergies renouvelables et ...
(334 more words)
À quoi ressemblera l'Europe de 2050 ? C'est à cette question que tente de répondre l'Agence européenne de l'environnement à travers son étude Prelude (PRospective Environmental Analysis of Land Use Development in Europe). En prenant comme point de départ une description des paysages européens (Union européenne, Norvège et Suisse) actuels, l'AEE imagine différents scénarios d'évolution des paysages. Prelude utilise le mode narratif pour décrire des scénarios en se basant sur un certain nombre d'indicateurs ...
(350 more words)
As is suggested by one of the conclusions of the French Interministerial Mission on the Greenhouse Effect in 2004, the emissions of greenhouse gases cannot be reduced in France without an enormous effort to address energy consumption (energy saving) alongside initiatives to develop renewable forms of energy.
The demand side of the equation (addressing consumption) is discussed in this issue by Véronique Lamblin. On the supply side, in the context of possible shortages in the longer term (probably within a matter of decades) of fossil fuel stocks (mainly hydrocarbons), renewable energy sources are an important option to explore, alongside greater use of nuclear power. Jean-Louis Bal and Bernard Chabot, both specialists in renewables, describe the main features of solar, wave, wind, biomass and geothermal power, their place in the total energy picture, and more specifically in Europe and in France, as well as their prospects for growth in the medium term.
They discuss the contributions of renewables to the production of electricity and heat and as fuel. They then argue that renewables could make up a non-negligible part of energy supplies via quite simple applications in housing and transport, for example. But this, too, would require a certain willingness to intervene on the part of governments. Germany and Japan, for instance, have already invested successfully in this approach, whereas France is lagging behind.
La demande d'énergie est en constante augmentation tandis que les ressources principalement utilisées aujourd'hui, les énergies fossiles, se raréfient et que leur prix augmente. Quelles sont les perspectives tant de la demande que de l'offre ? Quelles pistes pour pallier la divergence de leurs évolutions ?
In this opinion piece, Pierre Gonod reflects on Hurricane Katrina which struck the southern United States at the end of August 2005. He recounts the analysis made a year earlier by a specialist in risk assessment after Cyclone Ivan spared Louisiana, predicting the events that occurred in 2005 with astonishing clarity.
No notice was taken of this warning about the shortcomings in the system for coping with risks from natural disasters, in Louisiana, but was this the result of lack of foresight or was it an accommodation with destiny? Because, as Pierre Gonod stresses, the victims of Katrina were mainly poor, therefore almost all Black - a "natural cleansing" that could have suited some decision-makers, both local and non-local.
Pierre Gonod strongly condemns the policy actions (or rather inaction) that led to this situation, calling for foresight that gives human beings and humanity top priority once again. Arising from this is the project to which he is contributing: to develop an "anthropolitical" approach to foresight in which politics would be unequivocally geared to serving people, not just in the short term but in the medium and, above all, long term as well.
For the majority of decision-makers, in both the political and economic spheres, sustainable development has become an unavoidable concept that must be taken into account in most fields of activity. For some years a new approach, called the "service economy", has been evolving, able to contribute to sustainable development, in particular because it could significantly reduce both the consumption of raw materials and the production of polluting emissions.
Dominique Bourg and Nicolas Buclet describe in this article what the "service economy" involves, i.e. "substituting the sale of the use of a good for the sale of the good itself". With the help of actual experiments on the part of various firms (such as Michelin, Electrolux, Xerox), they show the benefits of this approach as well as the problems and pitfalls that must be avoided in order not to fail. They also stress that adopting this approach, which means giving priority to the supply of services in the long term over the production of goods in the narrow sense, does not hinder innovation, rather the opposite.
Although the service economy is still little known and too rarely practised in the business world, it is undoubtedly a key way forward towards sustainable development. However, because it overturns long-established patterns of production and consumption, major efforts will probably be required in order to convince both producers and consumers that it is worthwhile.
What a strange country France is, where the state claims to be the sole and exclusive embodiment of the common good and yet, as a result, it is incapable of tolerating the existence of independent agencies where discussions could take place that might challenge the rightness of public decision-making. Jean-Jacques Salomon provides yet another example, writing from his own experience as the President of the Collège de la prévention des risques technologiques (CPRT), set up by Michel Rocard when he was French Prime Minister.
Jean-Jacques Salomon starts by stating what he understands by the precautionary principle, which is all too frequently accused of paralysing the spirit of invention and innovation necessary for progress. He goes on to stress how important it is to have independent agencies capable of assessing advances in science and technology, given that the applications are, as we all know, becoming ever more ambivalent, their potential outcomes ranging from the best to the worst. Yet, as the former President of the CPRT argues, these agencies are misfits in the French political and institutional system, and the authorities therefore suspect them of wanting to hinder the projects drawn up by the orthodox civil service.
After explaining how the CPRT operated, illustrating his account with several particularly striking examples, Jean-Jacques Salomon describes how the Collège finally came to be closed down. In addition to this specific instance, he obviously also demonstrates clearly the French public authorities' desire to run everything their way without countenancing the slightest opposition, nor even accepting that their choices should be a matter for democratic debate, highly necessary though that is.
For more than half a century the motor car has been one of the success stories of French manufacturing industry. Even if it is no longer as true as it once was that "if Renault sneezes, France catches cold", now that services account for an ever larger share of the economy and the car industry is increasingly automated (today it accounts for only 1.3% of French jobs), the sector retains a symbolic importance in the public mind.
Nevertheless, as Pierre Bonnaure and Véronique Lamblin argue here, the car is changing rapidly, both outside and inside (with greater use of electronics). This is in response to the expectations of consumers, rising safety standards, environmental concerns, etc., and car manufacturers are therefore being forced to be more and more innovative. Added to this are the prospect of fossil fuel reserves running out, which raises the question of how vehicles should be powered in future, and the emergence on world markets quite soon of major vehicle manufacturers in developing countries such as China and India.
Against this background, competition is likely to be fierce and investment in research, especially, must no longer be put off, in France and more generally in the rest of Europe.
Tous nos modèles de développement reposent sur une exploitation intensive de ressources fossiles, le pétrole en particulier mais aussi le gaz naturel, le charbon et l’uranium. Or, les réserves sont limitées tandis que la consommation ne cesse d’augmenter. L’on a beau ricaner sur le rapport du Club de Rome de 1972 (dont le titre, en français, Halte à la croissance, était trompeur), le fait est là. Et l’envolée actuelle du prix du pétrole ne fait sans ...
(101 more words)
The "Plan Bleu", which was launched following an intergovernmental meeting in Split in 1977, is an independent agency that has been studying the Mediterranean region for almost 30 years, in particular thanks to the research centre at Sophia-Antipolis in southern France. In line with its brief, in 1986/7 the Blue Plan examined possible futures for the region by building scenarios based on the interaction of classic assumptions about economic and demographic growth (trend scenarios) with assumptions about different policies of North/South and South/South co-operation, also taking account of environmental and development considerations (alternative scenarios). Possible or desirable visions of the future for the Mediterranean basin were derived for the medium (2000) and long term (2025), especially with regard to water resources.
Since then, the Blue Plan has regularly tried to update this exercise. In this article Jean Margat, its vice-president, summarizes the main conclusions of the most recent effort to foresee the situation for water in the Mediterranean region in 2010 and 2025. As he stresses, there is still much uncertainty about the future of water resources in the area (especially as a result of changes in the climate and in the lifestyles of people living there, as well as of the environmental policies that are to be implemented), but it is virtually certain that the resources will continue to decline and the gap between North and South will continue to widen.
For almost two years now the strong Chinese demand for fossil and mineral raw materials regularly hits the headlines of the economic press because of the impact it has on prices. Nevertheless, the preoccupation of the media and of some people in the developed countries is quite recent, according to Jacques Varet.
In fact, the long-term trend had been towards declining demand for mineral raw materials: as developed economies were based less and less on physical goods and moved their manufacturing abroad, against a background of stable prices, it appears that firms and public authorities in the sectors concerned were led to believe that there was no risk of shortages of mineral resources and that economic growth depended less and less on these sorts of commodities. The recent sharp rise in the prices of certain metals (such as copper) are taken to be a first sign of the weakness of this view. As Jacques Varet argues, the problem had merely shifted towards the developing countries and has now resulted in genuine pressures on mineral resources and the extractive industries.
Illustrating his argument with figures and graphs, the author stresses how mistaken it is to think that the way these resources are being exploited today is compatible with sustainable development over the long term. He also criticizes the European Union and France for giving up on the extractive sector and for failing to make adequate investments of both money (for exploration) and research. Unlike the United States or even China, both of which are very active in this area, Europe is no longer equipped to analyse the data or to search for new mineral deposits as the new situation requires. If Europe does not place this issue at the top of its political agenda, the EU risks falling behind in a sector that is once again of great strategic importance.
Ce chapitre est extrait du Rapport Vigie 2016 de Futuribles International, qui propose un panorama structuré des connaissances et des incertitudes des experts que l'association a mobilisés pour explorer les évolutions des 15 à 35 prochaines années sur 11 thématiques.