I am writing this post on a state of the art machine able to transmit information across the world at the click of a button. Twenty years ago this technology was only available to people in research facilities, the military and universities – now it is ubiquitous. I can speak to family members in Australia on a video call, with almost no delay
My question today is related to the future of communications. Will our information superhighway survive without oil? Even with a built up supply of electricity in the form of wind and solar power, can the necessary infrastrcuture be constructed and maintained without oil?
Today I watched a contractor installing a series of Telus conduits to augment a ski resort area. Several things struck me as interesting.
- The machinery required to quickly and effectivly excavate the ditch is all powered by diesel. This could be done by hand if necessary, but would require a large team of labourers.
- The pipes used for telecommunication conduit are made from PVC which is made from oil based products.
- The concrete vaults used to organize the cables are extremely large and heavy. These structures have a lot of embodied energy, from the production of the concrete through to the transportation to site.
This was a relatively minor section of work, yet almost every part of the execution of the works is predecated on, or at least greatly assisted by oil, cheap oil and lots of it. Can we rely on the telecommunications infrastructure to be maintained as the supp0ly of oil dwindles? What can we do to offset the risks?