Uganda is an oil-producing nation

Commercially viable oil in Uganda was discovered in 2006, with an estimated 3.5 billion barrels of reserves. However, it would take over a decade for production to start, due to a series of political, social, economic and technical issues. These included a lack of transparency in the planning process, corruption among officials, intimidation and poor compensation of local residents, sluggish progress in determining the best infrastructure, and general bureaucracy.

By 2012, a total of 77 wells had been drilled and investigated, with 70 showing potential for profit. In 2013 the government finally reached an agreement with Tullow Oil of the United Kingdom, Total of France and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC), to build both the oil refinery and pipeline. Uganda also partnered with the neighbouring countries of South Sudan, Kenya and Rwanda to take up ownership in the planned oil refinery. Once the remaining issues were worked out, construction would begin in 2014, with first production in 2018.*

Most of the oil was located in the Albertine Graben region, a 45 by 500 km stretch of lush green vegetation, home to about half of Africa’s bird species, along with baboons, antelopes and elephants. Serious concerns were therefore raised by environmentalists, but these were dismissed by the government. With at least 30 years of production capacity, Uganda would undergo an economic boom – bringing electricity to the 90% who had lived without it, boosting its education and healthcare systems, and shifting the nation into the league of upper-middle-income countries.

This new-found wealth could not last, however. In the longer term, serious environmental problems would plague not just Uganda, but much of the African continent. Landlocked and lying directly on the equator, Uganda was exposed to extreme climate risks, including substantial changes in rainfall and humidity.*

Click to enlarge

uganda oil map
Uganda oil map. Credit: Heritage Oil

A missile defence shield is deployed in Europe

Europe is now protected by a continent-wide missile defence system, developed and deployed by the US military.
This has been established in phases between 2011 and 2018.

Phase 1 saw the deployment of a land-based early warning radar – which Turkey agreed to host – as well as ships in the Mediterranean equipped with proven SM-3 interceptors.

Phase 2 saw the creation of a land-based SM-3 interceptor site in Romania – in order to expand the defended area against short- and medium-range missile threats.

Phase 3, the most significant phase, added a more advanced SM-3 interceptor (Block IIA) and a second land-based SM-3 site, which Poland agreed to host. This would counter short-, medium- and intermediate-range missile threats. The system is located at Redzikowo military base, close to the Baltic Sea and Lithuania, roughly 50 miles from the Russian exclave of Kaliningrad.*

An additional fourth and final phase will be completed in 2020 with missiles being upgraded.*

Initially, this defence shield resulted in a cooling of relations between the US and Russia. The latter expressed concerns over the presence of missiles so close to its border, which it viewed as a security threat. This was despite assurances from the US that the shield was for potential threats from Iran and the Middle East – and was neither designed nor capable of threatening the numbers and sophisticated ability of Russia’s strategic forces.*

missile defence shield in poland and the czech republic 2018

The first private supersonic jet

While commercial airliners typically cruise at Mach 0.85 (567 mph), the Spike S-512 uses advanced engine and airframe technology to reach speeds of Mach 1.8 (1200 mph). Holding up to 18 passengers, it can fly from NYC to London in 3.5 hours instead of 7 hours; or from LA to Tokyo in 8 hours instead of 16 hours.* This private jet, costing $80 million, is aimed at the richest business executives and celebrities, but supersonic and even hypersonic travel will become more affordable in future decades. A competitor, Aerion, delivers their own supersonic jet in 2021. This is followed by hypersonic commercial airliners in the 2030s.

first supersonic private jet 2018 technology timeline
Credit: Spike Aerospace

The African Central Bank is established

Following many years of diplomatic talks, a unified African Central Bank has been established.* This represents a crucial step towards a more stable and developed Africa.

Though international efforts made in recent years, mostly as part of the UN’s Millennium Development Goals, the continent still had numerous problems to deal with. Despite medical advances and socio-economic progress, famine and disease were on-going issues. In the north, residual tensions and instability remained, following the protests and uprisings that raged earlier in the decade. The Horn of Africa was plagued by drought and civil unrest, while piracy off the coast of Somalia had only increased as oil and other commodities rose in value.

It became clear in recent years that a lasting and meaningful prosperity could only be achieved by the entire continent working together as one. Following the 2011 overthrow of its main proponent, Muammar Gaddafi, the plan for a United States of Africa came to be regarded as a dead proposal. However, countries were working together in other ways. The East African Federation, for instance, was established in 2015.** This was a full political federation of five member states – Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, Tanzania and Uganda – creating the second most populous nation in Africa (after Nigeria).

The growing need for a larger, more unified and far-reaching financial institution, in order to be fully integrated with the global economy, has led to further progress in developing the African Central Bank. Finally established in 2018, the benefits of this continental bank are immediate and substantial. Now acting as the banker for the African Union (consisting of 54 individual states), the Central Bank is able to regulate trade standards and currency value – supporting both public and private banking while setting interest and exchange rates.

The next step will be creating a pan-African single currency – known as the “Afro” – on schedule to take place in the early 2020s.* It is hoped that this development will be the keystone to helping each nation in the long term, especially the poorest, with value fluctuations and inequality becoming less and less rampant. The free movement of goods, persons, services, labour and capital will do much to improve the regional economy. A human rights court and monetary fund will also be set up. In addition, Africa finds itself in a uniquely advantageous position, in that it can learn from the past mistakes of Europe and the Euro. A prosperous and stable Africa now appears within sight for the first time.

However, true economic prosperity is still a far-off goal for most of the people of Africa, whose population has swelled to over 1.3 billion.* The looming threat of climate change will be the continent’s biggest challenge of all.

africa african central bank 2018 timeline future currency banknotes coins banking

East Africa’s largest ever infrastructure project

This year sees a major rail network completed in East Africa.** Built by a Chinese state-owned firm and part-funded by China’s government, the $14bn Standard Gauge Railway (SGR) is the largest infrastructure project in the region’s history. The SGR connects a number of major cities – greatly boosting trade and investment while reducing the times needed to move people and goods across borders. The cost of sending a tonne of freight one kilometre is slashed from $0.20 to $0.08, with a typical journey between Nairobi and the port city of Mombasa cut from 12 hours to just four. Until now, the region had relied almost exclusively on road transport.

2018 east africa rail map

Russia hosts the FIFA World Cup

This is the first time Russia has hosted the World Cup. Some $10 billion are spent on the tournament, which is spread over 14 venues including Moscow and St. Petersburg. As of 2010, there were no stadia in the country with 80,000+ capacities, but Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow is expanded to 90,000 seats in time for the games.

The first manned flights from Russia’s new spaceport

Despite being a major space power, Russia for decades lacked its own proper independent space launch facility for manned flights. Instead it was reliant on the Baikonur Cosmodrome in neighbouring Kazakhstan – leased from the government of that nation until 2050, at a cost of $115 million per year.

In 2011, construction began on the Vostochny Cosmodrome, a new spaceport located in the Amur Oblast region in Russia’s Far East. This was intended to reduce Russia’s dependency on Kazakhstan, enabling most missions to be launched from its own soil. The area devoted to this new infrastructure would be nearly 100 sq km (39 sq mi) with four separate launch pads, an airport, train station, academic campus, training and space tourism facilities, business centres and a town of 30,000 capacity for housing workers and their families.* Unmanned launches would commence in 2015, with the first manned flights in 2018.*

Roscosmos had suffered a number of setbacks and launch failures in the years prior, including the loss of its Phobos-Grunt probe. To address this issue and restore the nation’s reputation in space, Vladimir Putin announced a dramatic boost in funding; with a budget of 1.6 trillion rubles ($51.8 billion, or €۳۹ billion euros) for 2013-2020, a far greater increase than any other space agency in the world. In addition to the new Vostochny spaceport, longer term plans were made for a Moon base in the 2030s that could serve as a platform for flights to Mars.*

vostochny cosmodrome 2018 2020 2030 2050 russia space future
Credit: Roscosmos

The James Webb Space Telescope is launched

The James Webb Space Telescope (JWST) is the long-awaited successor to the Hubble Space Telescope. Its primary mirror has a collecting area six times larger than Hubble. The telescope is situated in an L2 orbit approximately 1.5 million km from Earth. Originally planned for 2014, it was delayed until 2018 due to budgetary constraints.*

james webb telescope 2018 timeline

Japan lunar rover mission

In 2018, the Japan Aerospace Exploration Agency (JAXA) sends an unmanned mission to the Moon. This uses an Epsilon solid-fuel rocket to carry and deploy a “Smart Lander for Investigating Moon” (SLIM). The probe is designed to perfect soft-landing technologies for manned missions in the future. While previous attempts by space agencies have landed spacecraft within several kilometres of their target site, SLIM aims to land within 100 metres (approximately 328 feet).* Face recognition software, similar to that found in digital cameras, enables it to identify craters. The mission costs ¥۱۰ billion to ¥۱۵ billion (between $83 and $125 million). Only five nations have achieved soft landings on the lunar surface – the former Soviet Union, the USA, China, India and Japan.

2018 japan moon rover lunar mission timeline future 2018 2020

The Japanese Hayabusa-2 probe arrives at 1999 JU3

۱۹۹۹ JU3 is an Apollo asteroid – a group of asteroids whose orbits take them into the main belt, before drifting back towards Earth’s vicinity. In 2018, this kilometre-sized rock is investigated by Japan’s space agency, JAXA. The mission involves a probe, Hayabusa-2, launched in 2014 and arriving four years later. The spacecraft is equipped with a “cannon” that fires a 7 kg (15.4 lb) explosive projectile at a velocity of 2 km/s. This impacts the asteroid’s surface with such force that a new crater is formed, with a camera filming the event from above. Hayabusa-2 then lands in the crater – scooping up samples for analysis back on Earth. It is hoped that water and organic materials in these samples may help to explain the origin of life.*

hayabusa 2 probe 2018

Completion of the 100,000 Genomes Project

The 100,000 Genomes Project is a £۳۰۰ million ($467m) effort to sequence the genomes of National Health Service (NHS) patients in England between 2015 and 2018.* By utilising a huge sample size, it aims to identify common genetic traits behind a number of cancers and rare diseases, paving the way for new diagnostic tools, drugs and other treatments.

When the Human Genome Project was initiated in 1990, it cost $3 billion and required 13 years to complete. However, the time and expense of mapping a whole human genome began to fall exponentially, at a rate even faster than Moore’s Law witnessed in computer chips.* By the early 2010s it was possible to sequence a person’s DNA for less than $10,000 in a few days, and by 2014, machines capable of $1,000 genomes had appeared.* A new era of personalised genomics was beginning to emerge.*

The 100,000 Genomes Project takes advantage of these revolutionary advances to create a large-scale database, combining genetic information with personal health records. This helps researchers to better understand disease and its complex relationship with genes. Doctors can predict how well a person will respond to a particular treatment, or find one that works best for their specific case. It allows health organisations to more accurately track the spread of infectious disease, precisely pinpointing the source and nature of an outbreak. All data in the 100,000 Genomes Project is anonymous.*

England is the first country to undertake such a task,* but even larger projects follow in subsequent years, as genome sequencing continues to improve in both cost and speed. By 2020, tens of millions of human genomes have been sequenced. By 2040, these systems will be ubiquitous in countries around the world.* The impact of personalised medicine is on a scale similar to penicillin and the smallpox vaccine.*

100000 genomes project 2015 2018

Universal flu vaccine

Influenza, commonly known as “the flu”, is a serious disease that causes between 250,000 and 500,000 worldwide annual deaths, rising to millions in pandemic years. It can sometimes lead to pneumonia, either direct viral pneumonia or secondary bacterial pneumonia, even in persons who are usually very healthy. Because of the way it can modify proteins on its outer surface, influenza is constantly evolving. This means that vaccines quickly become useless and new versions are required each year.

However, researchers found that material on the inside was common to many strains of the virus. By targeting this core region – that never changes, even in new strains – it was hoped that a universal flu vaccine could be developed that would be effective against all current and future outbreaks.

A type of white blood cell known as CD8 – part of the body’s immune system – was found to recognise proteins in the core. Using blood samples from human volunteers, taken during the 2009 pandemic, it was discovered that patients with higher levels of CD8 T-cells had milder symptoms and less chance of developing flu. By identifying the exact subtype of the immune system giving protection and which components of the virus it was attacking, researchers were able to develop a “blueprint” for a vaccine that could stimulate production of these T-cells.* Following further years of research, the vaccine is made publicly available by 2018.*

universal flu vaccine 2018

Polio has been eradicated

Polio is a disease caused by a virus that enters through the mouth. Spread by poor sanitation and exposure to infected human stools, it can damage the nervous system, leading to paralysis and eventual death. During the first half of the 20th century, there was a dramatic rise in cases. Epidemics became regular events during summer months, affecting hundreds of thousands of people. It was especially prevalent among young children.

This provided impetus for a “Great Race” towards the development of a vaccine. Developed in the mid-1950s, polio vaccines began to reduce the global number of cases per year. The last naturally occurring cases in the United States were reported in 1979 and the Western Hemisphere was declared free of the disease by 1994.

However, it continued to affect countries in Africa, Asia and elsewhere.* Vaccination efforts were stepped up – led by Rotary International, UNICEF and the World Health Organization. New commitments were made by governments and philanthropists including Bill Gates,* enabling over a billion children to be vaccinated. By 2018, polio has been eradicated from the world. New knowledge about the viruses, new technologies and new tactics to reach the most vulnerable communities have consigned it to history.* This is only the second time that a human disease has been completely wiped out; the previous instance was smallpox in 1979.*

polio eradication 2018

A drug to prevent obesity

A drug that lets people eat whatever they want without gaining weight is being developed.* This works by tricking the body into reacting as though it has already consumed a meal. Though initially expensive, there is enormous demand for this product, leading to a rapid fall in obesity levels throughout much of the world – especially in countries like the US, which until now had been experiencing a crisis in this regard. Average life expectancy is increased as a result, since there are less people dying of heart-related illnesses.

anti-obesity drugs 2018

Crossrail opens in London

In development since 1974, Crossrail is finally opened this year. One of Europe’s largest ever transport projects, this boosts London’s subway capacity by over 10%, bringing huge regenerative benefits.

The line is 120 km in length (including 42 km of tunnels) and runs from Berkshire in the west, to Essex in the east, linking together all the main economic hubs in the capital – Heathrow Airport, the West End, the City of London and Canary Wharf. Ten-coach trains, 200 metres long, run at frequencies of 24 trains per hour in each direction during peak periods.

The original planned schedule was for the first trains to run in 2017. A Comprehensive Spending Review in 2010 – saving over £۱bn of the £۱۶bn projected costs – meant that the first trains to run on the central section would be delayed until 2018.*

The Transbay Transit Center is completed in San Francisco

The population of California has continued to grow and grow. This has created some of the worst urban traffic problems in America. One of the places most badly affected has been the San Francisco Bay Area.

The main transport hub in downtown San Francisco had since 1939 been the original Transbay Terminal, located in the South of Market Neighborhood near the Financial District. In 2010, however, to address increasing stresses on the transportation system, this old station was demolished to make way for a new, high-tech development – something which had been in planning since the 1960s.

Demolition began in 2010, with a temporary station built to handle traffic over the seven year construction period. The first phase of the $4bn project would be completed in 2017. This would include a five storey, 1,400 foot long, million square foot transit centre, complete with numerous bus terminals, each with ramps connecting the stations to a new off-site bus storage facility and the nearby Oakland Bay Bridge. A 5.4 acre park would be included on top of the transit centre. The highly efficient re-design of the bus ramp system opened up parcels of land for a series of buildings which – together with the transit terminal – would make up San Francisco’s grand urban renewal project. This part of the project would cover 40 acres and consist of townhouses, low to mid-rise buildings and skyscrapers, along with parks and recreation, overall providing 2,600 new homes, three million square feet of office space and over 100,000 square feet of retail space. The centrepiece of this development is the Transit Tower. Soaring to over 1,000 feet, it is among the tallest towers on the American West Coast, second only to the Wilshire Grand Center in Los Angeles.

The second and final phase – completed in 2018* – is the Downtown Rail Extension. This 1.3 mile long, primarily underground rail line connects the California commuter rail line, Caltrain, to downtown San Francisco, linking the city to the Peninsula, San Jose and Silicon Valley. This major extension opens the doors for new jobs and very rapid commutes in and out of the city. It is also made to accommodate the future California High Speed Rail Line. Overall, the project connects Caltrain, Greyhound, Golden Gate Transit, Muni, SamTrams, AC Transit, Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART), WestCAT and Amtrak.

The development is designed with the environment in mind, too. Its open design allows for natural light, low-energy ventilation and passive cooling. LED lights are used extensively, while many buildings including the Transit Tower are outfitted with wind turbines. Another key feature is that the entire development is built to withstand earthquakes; a likely possibility in the Bay Area.

Once completed, the Transbay Transit Center helps to accommodate the rapidly growing population of California – predicted to rise from 37 million in 2010, to 51 million by 2030.*

Many complex surgeries are performed by robots

Basic robotic surgeons have been around since the 1990s. In the first decade of the 21st century, they remained uncommon and relatively simple, though high-end companies began to develop their own more advanced models.*

Surgeries were divided between supervisory-controlled systems, telesurgical systems and shared-control systems. Supervisory-controlled systems were the most automated – requiring a human only to input directional data, and to supervise the operation to take control if anything went wrong. Shared-control systems were the least automated, in which human surgeons were physically present and did most of the work, but were aided by robots.

Though yet to become widespread, many large hospitals and universities had their own automated systems in place by 2010. Continued tests and trials of these machines greatly improved their accuracy and reliability. The growing number of successful surgeries made patients more willing to trust in robotic procedures.

By the mid-2010s, many cardiothoracic, gastrointestinal and orthopaedic surgeries could be handled almost entirely by remote-controlled robots. By 2018, the majority of large hospitals in the developed world use a robotic surgeon on at least a semi-regular basis. South Korea in particular is leading the way in this field, with almost every hospital in the nation using them routinely.* The latest models feature improved dexterity and multitasking, high quality incision tools and higher levels of automation. New ultra-small cameras are also in use, giving controllers an extreme close-up view of the operation.*

future medical robot 2018 surgery timeline
©۲۰۱۱ Intuitive Surgical, Inc.

Previously, it could take a dozen surgeons, anaesthetists and nurses to perform surgeries, with even more for certain complex procedures. Now, robots can remove some or all of this burden, performing the jobs of several different specialists at once and working around the clock without tiring.* Surgeries in 2018 often consist of just one or two human supervisors overseeing a robot’s work. In the long run, this helps to reduce health costs. Additionally, robots offer much higher precision than humans, so patients are able to leave the operating table with less collateral trauma.

Telesurgery is now being looked into as a way for doctors to conduct surgeries over long distances. This could allow a specialist surgeon in England to operate on a patient in Australia for example, using only remote-controlled robots. However, issues with latency will delay this practice from entering the mainstream for a while yet.

Despite being another profession threatened by automation, hospital surgery remains a primarily human undertaking for now. Robotic operations are still in their infancy, requiring the presence and supervision of doctors and other personnel. It will be a long time before human medics are made entirely redundant by this technology.

future medical robot 2018 surgery timeline
©۲۰۱۱ Intuitive Surgical, Inc.

Robot insect drones are in military use

Micro aerial vehicles the size of insects have been in development for over a decade.* One of the major hurdles was creating sufficient battery power in such a small object, as well as keeping them light enough to remain airborne. They are now entering military use in a number of roles – from spying missions (where they quite literally serve as a “fly on the wall”), to search and rescue operations* where they can easily navigate tight corners and spaces.

flying robot insect spy spies military future technology

Ubiquitous internet nodes connect appliances, vehicles, etc.

In developed nations, many of the day-to-day routines in the home are becoming automated. Fridges, for instance, can be programmed to order new food before they become empty.* RFID microchips – smaller than grains of sand – are printed on packaging labels. These connect wirelessly to the refrigerator, which sends an order via the Internet. New food is then delivered to the customer’s door at a pre-arranged time.

Boilers and other appliances can notify an engineer when they break down, while heat and lighting systems can be activated in real time as a person is on their way home from work (rather than being programmed for a fixed time).

Devices are also being synchronised in various ways. They can even sense where you are in the home. A person can be listening to a football commentary in their bedroom, for example, then walk to the lounge and have the television activate itself, then walk to their car outside and have the signal “follow” them by turning on the appropriate radio channel.

In addition to being linked with their user’s home network, the majority of cars now have Internet access and speech recognition as standard.*

2018 technology timeline web internet home

Consumer devices with 100 Gbit/s transfer speeds

A new form of data transfer is now available for the consumer market. This is known as “Thunderbolt” and is replacing the Universal Serial Bus (USB) leads which have been the standard for many years. The USB 3.0 specification allowed transfer speeds of 4.8 Gbit/s. An early version of Thunderbolt (codenamed “Light Peak”) achieved 10 Gbit/s. This latest version, however, can achieve 100 Gbit/s – enough to transfer an entire Blu-ray movie in just three seconds.*

The optical technology of Thunderbolt also allows smaller connectors with longer, thinner and more flexible cables. Additionally, it can run multiple protocols simultaneously over a single cable, enabling the technology to connect devices such as peripherals, workstations, displays, disk drives, docking stations and more.

light peak intel 2018 technology
Credit: Intel

Portable, long-range 3D scanning

Recent advances in time-of-flight (ToF) systems, based on extra long wavelengths, have enabled 3D scans to be obtained from up to a kilometre away using handheld devices. This range will soon be extended to 10 kilometres, with millimetre accuracy. Applications include the scanning of static, man-made targets such as vehicles, identification of objects hidden behind foliage, remote examination of the health and volume of vegetation and the movement of rock faces to assess potential hazards.* This is adding to privacy concerns over the explosion of security and surveillance emerging at this time.

2018 technology scanning 3d
Credit: Optics Express

Scientists drill into Earth’s mantle

In 2018, the first successful attempt is made to retrieve samples from Earth’s mantle, the part of the planet that lies between the crust and the outer core. What was once considered science fiction has now become possible thanks to advances in drilling technology.*

The operation takes place in the Pacific, where the crust is much thinner, but still requires burrowing through some five miles (eight kilometres) of solid rock. Temperatures range from 500-900°C (932-1,652°F) at the upper boundary with the crust, while pressures exceed 4 million pounds per square foot (21 million kilograms per sq m). Seawater is pumped down into the hole at sufficient pressure that samples can be forced back up to the surface.

Until now, little has been known about the mantle, since the only samples to arrive at the surface have come from volcanoes or ancient mountain belts. Now for the first time, scientists can analyse “pure” extracts directly from the mantle, untainted by time or geological processes. This data reveals much about Earth’s origins and early history. In addition, it provides insight into how current mantle processes operate: highly important in understanding the plate tectonics which drive earthquakes, tsunamis and eruptions.

Microbial life is also discovered at previously unexplored depths within the lower crust. These new forms of extremophile bacteria are found to survive at extraordinarily high temperatures – increasing the probability of alien life elsewhere in the universe.

drilling into the mantle core earth future exploration

The Mackenzie Valley Pipeline is completed in Canada

Like its European cousin, Nabucco, the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline had to overcome numerous obstacles in order to be realised. This giant energy project had been at the planning stage for 35 years, the main barrier to completion being the opposition of native tribes whose land it was intended to run through.*

By 2011, however, many tribes had dropped their opposition. This change of opinion was mainly a result of the Canadian government pledging billions of dollars to the aboriginal First Nations of Canada. Indeed, the Nations would eventually come to own one-third of the pipeline itself. With project approval given, work on the pipeline and the natural gas fields it would exploit began in 2014, with the first flow of gas starting in late 2018.*

In total, Mackenzie Valley stretches 743 miles (1,196 kilometres), beginning at the Beaufort Sea and passing through the Northwest Territories, before connecting to existing pipelines in northern Alberta. Around 18.5 billion cubic metres of gas pass through the pipeline each year. The total cost of this project is almost $22 billion.

Although much of the boreal forest the Mackenzie Valley runs through has been protected, concerns are still raised about the environmental impact. Many are worried about the increased development of the Canadian wilderness which the project’s success encourages. Other huge gas and oil projects are underway in the region at this time. These include drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, as well as the Alaska Gas Pipeline due for completion by 2020. The latter will be over twice as long as the Mackenzie Valley Pipeline.

mackenzie valley pipeline map and timeline 2018

The market for biofuels is experiencing a period of rapid growth

Biofuels have been generating enormous interest over the last decade. Spikes in fossil fuel prices, the urgent need for energy independence, government subsidies and concern over greenhouse gas emissions have all driven the growing market for fuels such as ethanol, propanol, butanol, biodiesel, biomass and organic oil-based compounds.

By 2018, demand for alternative energy has spurred the industry to new heights. Ethanol production has been ramped up worldwide, now surpassing $100bn in value, compared to $35bn just a decade earlier.* Production from corn alone has jumped to over 20bn gallons.* Brazil remains a leading producer and user of ethanol, more than doubling its exports to 16bn gallons.* Due to its 40-year-old program, it retains the most advanced biofuel economy in the world, with ethanol easily surpassing fossil fuel use.

Government subsidies have been particularly high in the USA, as the need to reduce dependence on foreign oil becomes ever stronger. A significant percentage of American cars now run on biofuel, with gasoline use having fallen by almost 20%. The US Navy has also turned to biodiesel, which has now reached a reasonable price range for the task. It is hoped this will lead to the world’s first truly “green fleet.”*

The European Union has also increased its use of biofuel, which now makes up almost 10% of fuel. The EU remains the second largest producer, following Brazil. Italy has become the first country in Europe to legally require a new generation of “advanced biofuels” in its cars and trucks.* Russia today is a leading biomass producer, as it alone holds almost 22% of the world’s forests.

Africa is now becoming a major exporter of biofuels through international corporations, particularly in Mozambique and Tanzania.* Jatropha cultivation in the area is producing over 40,000 tonnes of oil annually. India and China have significantly increased their production too.

Despite these gains, biofuel remains controversial. The land required for production competes with that of food, at a time of increasing food demand worldwide. Ethanol production is blamed for numerous agricultural price shocks during this decade and the next. It also contributes to soil erosion, deforestation and water loss. Some solutions now emerging include the aquatic and algae biofuel market, along with a focus on non-food biofuel sources.**

While biofuel is now making a noticeable difference in energy use worldwide, it is still too early to end the planet’s reliance on fossil fuels.

biofuels timeline 2015 2020

The last of Nigeria’s rainforests have been felled

Nigeria was once among the Earth’s most ecologically vibrant places – home to 4,700 plant types and 550 species of breeding birds and mammals. These included the forest elephant (Loxodonta cyclotis) and rare primates such as the drill monkey (Mandrillus leucophaeus), Sclater’s guenon (Cercopithecus sclateri), the red-eared guenon (Cercopithecus erythrotis) and the red-capped mangabey (Cercocebus torquatus).

During the late 20th century, however, rampant deforestation took hold, with tree loss reaching nearly 4% per year. Between 1990 and 2005, the country lost over 4 million hectares of tree cover.* The most biodiverse ecosystems – the so-called “old growth” areas – were disappearing at an even faster rate, with an average of 11% being lost every year from 2000 onwards.

Logging, subsistence farming, road building (often sponsored by oil companies), mining and dam construction all contributed to the damage. The carbon lost from the destruction of these rainforests was exacerbated by the amount released from gas flaring – Nigeria flared more gas than any other country.

Despite some attempts at preservation, a resource-hungry population and its growing economy were unable to halt the tide of destruction. The bulk of Nigeria’s rainforests eventually disappeared, the last few pockets shrinking into insignificance by the late 2010s.*

nigeria rainforest cross river state deforestation logging africa future


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۲۳ See ۲۰۱۵-۲۰۱۹.

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۲۵ Genome revolution targets treatments for common cancers, The Independent:
Accessed 26th December 2014.

۲۶ See ۲۰۴۰.

۲۷ NHS DNA scheme to fight cancer and genetic diseases, BBC:
Accessed 26th December 2014.

۲۸ Scientists closer to universal flu vaccine after pandemic “natural experiment”, Imperial College London:
Accessed 28th September 2013.

۲۹ “In truth, in this case it is about five years [away from a vaccine]. We have the know-how, we know what needs to be in the vaccine and we can just get on and do it.”
Scientists take big step towards universal flu vaccine,
Accessed 28th September 2013.

۳۰ Polio epidemic warning for Africa, BBC:
Accessed 16th May 2013.

۳۱ Bill Gates 2.0, CBS News:
Accessed 16th May 2013.

۳۲ Global leaders support new six-year plan to deliver a polio-free world by 2018, World Health Organization:
Accessed 16th May 2013.

۳۳ ۱۹۷۹ in science, Wikipedia:
Accessed 16th May 2013.

۳۴ The Future Is Now? Pretty Soon, at Least,
Accessed 13th May 2009.

۳۵ Crossrail works programme, Crossrail official website:
Accessed 18th September 2011.

۳۶ Project Timeline, Transbay Transit Center:
Accessed 18th September 2011.

۳۷ Downtown Rail Extension (DTX), Transbay Transit Center:
Accessed 18th September 2011.

۳۸ The da Vinci Surgical System, Intuitive Surgical:
Accessed 6th October 2011.

۳۹ Robotic age poses ethical dilemma, BBC:
Accessed 6th October 2011.

۴۰ This Solid-State Camera Fits on the Head of a Pin and Can Dive Into Your Skull, Gizmodo:
Accessed 6th October 2011.

۴۱ How Robotic Surgery Will Work, HowStuffWorks:
Accessed 6th October 2011.

۴۲ A Hornet-sized Robotic Insect Can Now Fly,
Accessed 26th September 2009.

۴۳ Bird and insect-like drones being planned by DARPA, Future Timeline Blog:
Accessed 30th December 2014.

۴۴ v-Fluence CEO Contends Growth in Mobile “Apps” Forebodes PC’s Demise,
Accessed 13th May 2009.

۴۵ In-car internet ‘to become norm’ in survey about future, BBC:
Accessed 8th January 2012.

۴۶ “Light Peak delivers high bandwidth starting at 10Gb/s with the potential ability to scale to 100Gb/s over the next decade.”
See Intel Labs Lights Up Faster Future Interconnects, Intel:
Accessed 8th October 2011.

۴۷ “Ultimately, it could scan and image objects located as far as 10 kilometers away. ‘It is clear that the system would have to be miniaturized and ruggedized, but we believe that a lightweight, fully portable scanning depth imager is possible and could be a product in less than five years.'”
See New camera system creates high-resolution 3-D images from up to a kilometer away, The Optical Society:
Accessed 26th March 2011.

۴۸ Scientists plan to drill all the way down to the Earth’s mantle, PhysOrg:
Accessed 26th March 2011.

۴۹ Mackenzie Gas Project official website:
Accessed 9th October 2011.

۵۰ Tech Talk – Pipelines from the Arctic, The Oil Drum:
Accessed 9th October 2011.

۵۱ Solar, Wind and Biofuels Grew 53 Percent in 2008, Cleantech Blog:
Accessed 9th October 2011.

۵۲ Ethanol Production: Current Status, Future Trends, Implications, Purdue University:
Accessed 9th October 2011.

۵۳ Brazil’s Changing Food Demand Challenges the Farm Sector, Choices:
Accessed 9th October 2011.

۵۴ US Navy says it expects competitively-priced biofuels by 2018-20, Biofuels Digest:
Accessed 9th October 2011.

۵۵ Italy pushes ahead with ‘next generation’ biofuels from waste, BBC:
Accessed 16th October 2014.

۵۶ Sun Biofuels Plans to Expand African Jatropha Cultivation Fivefold by 2018, Bloomberg:
Accessed 9th October 2011.

۵۷ Algae: The ultimate biofuel?, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO):
Accessed 9th October 2011.

۵۸ Biodiesel 2020: A Global Market Survey, 2nd Edition, Emerging Markets Online:
Accessed 9th October 2011.

۵۹ Reduction of Greenhouse Gas Emissions through Avoiding Deforestation and Forest Degradation (REDD): Committing forests as Carbon Reservoir,
United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization:
Accessed 8th September 2010.

۶۰ “There will be no forest left in six to ten years.”
See Battling to preserve Nigeria’s rainforest, CNN:
Accessed 8th September 2010.