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The true feasibility of moving away from fossil fuels


One of the great misconceptions of our time is the belief that we can move away from fossil fuels if we make suitable choices on fuels. In one view, we can make the transition to a low-energy economy powered by wind, water, and solar. In other versions, we might include some other energy sources, such as biofuels or nuclear, but the story is not very different.

The problem is the same regardless of what lower bound a person chooses: our economy is way too dependent on consuming an amount of energy that grows with each added human participant in the economy. This added energy is necessary because each person needs food, transportation, housing, and clothing, all of which are dependent upon energy consumption. The economy operates under the laws of physics, and history shows disturbing outcomes if energy consumption per capita declines.

There are a number of issues:

  • The impact of alternative energy sources is smaller than commonly believed.
  • When countries have reduced their energy consumption per capita by significant amounts, the results have been very unsatisfactory.
  • Energy consumption plays a bigger role in our lives than most of us imagine.
  • It seems likely that fossil fuels will leave us before we can leave them.
  • The timing of when fossil fuels will leave us seems to depend on when central banks lose their ability to stimulate the economy through lower interest rates.
  • If fossil fuels leave us, the result could be the collapse of financial systems and governments.

[1] Wind, water and solar provide only a small share of energy consumption today; any transition to the use of renewables alone would have huge repercussions.

According to BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy data, wind, water and solar only accounted for 9.4% 0f total energy consumption in 2017.

Figure 1. Wind, Water and Solar as a percentage of total energy consumption, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Even if we make the assumption that these types of energy consumption will continue to achieve the same percentage increases as they have achieved in the last 10 years, it will still take 20 more years for wind, water, and solar to reach 20% of total energy consumption.

Thus, even in 20 years, the world would need to reduce energy consumption by 80% in order to operate the economy on wind, water and solar alone. To get down to today’s level of energy production provided by wind, water and solar, we would need to reduce energy consumption by 90%.

[2] Venezuela’s example (Figure 1, above) illustrates that even if a country has an above average contribution of renewables, plus significant oil reserves, it can still have major problems.

One point people miss is that having a large share of renewables doesn’t necessarily mean that the lights will stay on. A major issue is the need for long distance transmission lines to transport the renewable electricity from where it is generated to where it is to be used. These lines must constantly be maintained. Maintenance of electrical transmission lines has been an issue in both Venezuela’s electrical outages and in California’s recent fires attributed to the utility PG&E.

There is also the issue of variability of wind, water and solar energy. (Note the year-to-year variability indicated in the Venezuela line in Figure 1.) A country cannot really depend on its full amount of wind, water, and solar unless it has a truly huge amount of electrical storage: enough to last from season-to-season and year-to-year. Alternatively, an extraordinarily large quantity of long-distance transmission lines, plus the ability to maintain these lines for the long term, would seem to be required.

[3] When individual countries have experienced cutbacks in their energy consumption per capita, the effects have generally been extremely disruptive, even with cutbacks far more modest than the target level of 80% to 90% that we would need to get off fossil fuels. 

Notice that in these analyses, we are looking at “energy consumption per capita.” This calculation takes the total consumption of all kinds of energy (including oil, coal, natural gas, biofuels, nuclear, hydroelectric, and renewables) and divides it by the population.

Energy consumption per capita depends to a significant extent on what citizens within a given economy can afford. It also depends on the extent of industrialization of an economy. If a major portion of industrial jobs are sent to China and India and only service jobs are retained, energy consumption per capita can be expected to fall. This happens partly because local companies no longer need to use as many energy products. Additionally, workers find mostly service jobs available; these jobs pay enough less that workers must cut back on buying goods such as homes and cars, reducing their energy consumption.

Example 1. Spain and Greece Between 2007-2014

Figure 2. Greece and Spain energy consumption per capita. Energy data is from BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy; population estimates are UN 2017 population estimates.

The period between 2007 and 2014 was a period when oil prices tended to be very high. Both Greece and Spain are very dependent on oil because of their sizable tourist industries. Higher oil prices made the tourism services these countries sold more expensive for their consumers. In both countries, energy consumption per capita started falling in 2008 and continued to fall until 2014, when oil prices began falling. Spain’s energy consumption per capita fell by 18% between 2007 and 2014; Greece’s fell by 24% over the same period.

Both Greece and Spain experienced high unemployment rates, and both have needed debt bailouts to keep their financial systems operating. Austerity measures were forced on Greece. The effects on the economies of these countries were severe. Regarding Spain, Wikipedia has a section called, “2008 to 2014 Spanish financial crisis,” suggesting that the loss of energy consumption per capita was highly correlated with the country’s financial crisis.

Example 2: France and the UK, 2004 – 2017

Both France and the UK have experienced falling energy consumption per capita since 2004, as oil production dropped (UK) and as industrialization was shifted to countries with a cheaper total cost of labor and fuel. Immigrant labor was added, as well, to better compete with the cost structures of the countries that France and the UK were competing against. With the new mix of workers and jobs, the quantity of goods and services that these workers could afford (per capita) has been falling.

Figure 3. France and UK energy consumption per capita. Energy data is from BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy; population estimates are UN 2017 population estimates.

Comparing 2017 to 2004, energy consumption per capita is down 16% for France and 25% in the UK. Many UK citizens have been very unhappy, wanting to leave the European Union.

France recently has been experiencing “Yellow Vest” protests, at least partly related to an increase in carbon taxes. Higher carbon taxes would make energy-based goods and services less affordable. This would likely reduce France’s energy consumption per capita even further. French citizens with their protests are clearly not happy about how they are being affected by these changes.

Example 3: Syria (2006-2016) and Yemen (2009-2016)

Both Syria and Yemen are examples of formerly oil-exporting countries that are far past their peak production. Declining energy consumption per capita has been forced on both countries because, with their oil exports falling, the countries can no longer afford to use as much energy as they did in the past for previous uses, such as irrigation. If less irrigation is used, food production and jobs are lost. (Syria and Yemen)

Figure 4. Syria and Yemen energy consumption per capita. Energy consumption data from US Energy Information Administration; population estimates are UN 2017 estimates.

Between Yemen’s peak year in energy consumption per capita (2009) and the last year shown (2016), its energy consumption per capita dropped by 66%. Yemen has been named by the United Nations as the country with the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” Yemen cannot provide adequate food and water for its citizens. Yemen is involved in a civil war that others have entered into as well. I would describe the war as being at least partly a resource war.

The situation with Syria similar. Syria’s energy consumption per capita declined 55% between its peak year (2006) and the last year available (2016). Syria is also involved in a civil war that has been entered into by others. Here again, the issue seems to be inadequate resources per capita; war participants are to some extent fighting over the limited resources that are available.

Example 4: Venezuela (2008-2017)

Figure 5. Energy consumption per capita for Venezuela, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy data and UN 2017 population estimates.

Between 2008 and 2017, energy consumption per capita in Venezuela declined by 23%. This is a little less than the decreases experienced by the UK and Greece during their periods of decline.

Even with this level of decline, Venezuela has been having difficulty providing adequate services to its citizens. There have been reports of empty supermarket shelves. Venezuela has not been able to maintain its electrical system properly, leading to many outages.

[4] Most people are surprised to learn that energy is required for every part of the economy. When adequate energy is not available, an economy is likely to first shrink back in recession; eventually, it may collapse entirely.

Physics tells us that energy consumption in a thermodynamically open system enables all kinds of “complexity.” Energy consumption enables specialization and hierarchical organizations. For example, growing energy consumption enables the organizations and supply lines needed to manufacture computers and other high-tech goods. Of course, energy consumption also enables what we think of as typical energy uses: the transportation of goods, the smelting of metals, the heating and air-conditioning of buildings, and the construction of roads. Energy is even required to allow pixels to appear on a computer screen.

Pre-humans learned to control fire over one million years ago. The burning of biomass was a tool that could be used for many purposes, including keeping warm in colder climates, frightening away predators, and creating better tools. Perhaps its most important use was to permit food to be cooked, because cooking increases food’s nutritional availability. Cooked food seems to have been important in allowing the brains of humans to grow bigger at the same time that teeth, jaws and guts could shrink compared to those of ancestors. Humans today need to be able to continue to cook part of their food to have a reasonable chance of survival.

Any kind of governmental organization requires energy. Having a single leader takes the least energy, especially if the leader can continue to perform his non-leadership duties. Any kind of added governmental service (such as roads or schools) requires energy. Having elected leaders who vote on decisions takes more energy than having a king with a few high-level aides. Having multiple layers of government takes energy. Each new intergovernmental organization requires energy to fly its officials around and implement its programs.

International trade clearly requires energy consumption. In fact, pretty much every activity of businesses requires energy consumption.

Needless to say, the study of science or of medicine requires energy consumption, because without significant energy consumption to leverage human energy, nearly every person must be a subsistence level farmer, with little time to study or to take time off from farming to write (or even read) books. Of course, manufacturing medicines and test tubes requires energy, as does creating sterile environments.

We think of the many parts of the economy as requiring money, but it is really the physical goods and services that money can buy, and the energy that makes these goods and services possible, that are important. These goods and services depend to a very large extent on the supply of energy being consumed at a given point in time–for example, the amount of electricity being delivered to customers and the amount of gasoline and diesel being sold. Supply chains are very dependent on each part of the system being available when needed. If one part is missing, long delays and eventually collapse can occur.

[5] If the supply of energy to an economy is reduced for any reason, the result tends to be very disruptive, as shown in the examples given in Section [3], above.

When an economy doesn’t have enough energy, its self-organizing feature starts eliminating pieces of the economic system that it cannot support. The financial system tends to be very vulnerable because without adequate economic growth, it becomes very difficult for borrowers to repay debt with interest. This was part of the problem that Greece and Spain had in the period when their energy consumption per capita declined. A person wonders what would have happened to these countries without bailouts from the European Union and others.

Another part that is very vulnerable is governmental organizations, especially the higher layers of government that were added last. In 1991, the Soviet Union’s central government was lost, leaving the governments of the 15 republics that were part of the Soviet Union. As energy consumption per capita declines, the European Union would seem to be very vulnerable. Other international organizations, such as the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund, would seem to be vulnerable, as well.

The electrical system is very complex. It seems to be easily disrupted if there is a material decrease in energy consumption per capita because maintenance of the system becomes difficult.

If energy consumption per capita falls dramatically, many changes that don’t seem directly energy-related can be expected. For example, the roles of men and women are likely to change. Without modern medical care, women will likely need to become of the mothers of several children in order that an average of two can survive long enough to raise their own children. Men will be valued for the heavy manual labor that they can perform. Today’s view of the equality of the sexes is likely to disappear because sex differences will become much more important in a low-energy world.

Needless to say, other aspects of a low-energy economy might be very different as well. For example, one very low-energy type of economic system is a “gift economy.” In such an economy, the status of each individual is determined by the amount that that person can give away. Anything a person obtains must automatically be shared with the local group or the individual will be expelled from the group. In an economy with very low complexity, this kind of economy seems to work. A gift economy doesn’t require money or debt!

[6] Most people assume that moving away from fossil fuels is something we can choose to do with whatever timing we would like. I would argue that we are not in charge of the process. Instead, fossil fuels will leave us when we lose the ability to reduce interest rates sufficiently to keep oil and other fossil fuel prices high enough for energy producers.

Something that may seem strange to those who do not follow the issue is the fact that oil (and other energy prices) seem to be very much influenced by interest rates and the level of debt. In general, the lower the interest rate, the more affordable high-priced goods such as factories, homes, and automobiles become, and the higher commodity prices of all kinds can be. “Demand” increases with falling interest rates, causing energy prices of all types to rise.

Figure 6.

The cost of extracting oil is less important in determining oil prices than a person might expect. Instead, prices seem to be determined by what end products consumers (in the aggregate) can afford. In general, the more debt that individual citizens, businesses and governments can obtain, the higher that oil and other energy prices can rise. Of course, if interest rates start rising (instead of falling), there is a significant chance of a debt bubble popping, as defaults rise and asset prices decline.

Interest rates have been generally falling since 1981 (Figure 7). This is the direction needed to support ever-higher energy prices.

Figure 7. Chart of 3-month and 10-year interest rates, prepared by the FRED, using data through March 27, 2019.

The danger now is that interest rates are approaching the lowest level that they can possibly reach. We need lower interest rates to support the higher prices that oil producers require, as their costs rise because of depletion. In fact, if we compare Figures 7 and 8, the Federal Reserve has been supporting higher oil and other energy prices with falling interest rates practically the whole time since oil prices rose above the inflation adjusted level of $20 per barrel!

Figure 8. Historical inflation adjusted prices oil, based on data from 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, with the low price period for oil highlighted.

Once the Federal Reserve and other central banks lose their ability to cut interest rates further to support the need for ever-rising oil prices, the danger is that oil and other commodity prices will fall too low for producers. The situation is likely to look like the second half of 2008 in Figure 6. The difference, as we reach limits on how low interest rates can fall, is that it will no longer be possible to stimulate the economy to get energy and other commodity prices back up to an acceptable level for producers.

[7] Once we hit the “no more stimulus impasse,” fossil fuels will begin leaving us because prices will fall too low for companies extracting these fuels. They will be forced to leave because they cannot make an adequate profit.

One example of an oil producer whose production was affected by an extended period of low prices is the Soviet Union (or USSR).

Figure 9. Oil production of the former Soviet Union together with oil prices in 2017 US$. All amounts from 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

The US substantially raised interest rates in 1980-1981 (Figure 7). This led to sharp reduction in oil prices, as the higher interest rates cut back investment of many kinds, around the world. Given the low price of oil, the Soviet Union reduced new investment in new fields. This slowdown in investment first reduced the rate of growth in oil production, and eventually led to a decline in production in 1988 (Figure 9). When oil prices rose again, production did also.

Figure 10. Energy consumption per capita for the former Soviet Union, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy data and UN 2017 population estimates.

The Soviet Union’s energy consumption per capita reached its highest level in 1988 and began declining in 1989. The central government of the Soviet Union did not collapse until late 1991, as the economy was increasingly affected by falling oil export revenue.

Some of the changes that occurred as the economy simplified itself were the loss of the central government, the loss of a large share of industry, and a great deal of job loss. Energy consumption per capita dropped by 36% between 1988 and 1998. It has never regained its former level.

Venezuela is another example of an oil exporter that, in theory, could export more oil, if oil prices were higher. It is interesting to note that Venezuela’s highest energy consumption per capita occurred in 2008, when oil prices were high.

We are now getting a chance to observe what the collapse in Venezuela looks like on a day- by-day basis. Figure 5, above, shows Venezuela’s energy consumption per capita pattern through 2017. Low oil prices since 2014 have particularly adversely affected the country.

[8] Conclusion: We can’t know exactly what is ahead, but it is clear that moving away from fossil fuels will be far more destructive of our current economy than nearly everyone expects. 

It is very easy to make optimistic forecasts about the future if a person doesn’t carefully examine what the data and the science seem to be telling us. Most researchers come from narrow academic backgrounds that do not seek out insights from other fields, so they tend not to understand the background story.

A second issue is the desire for a “happy ever after” ending to our current energy predicament. If a researcher is creating an economic model without understanding the underlying principles, why not offer an outcome that citizens will like? Such a solution can help politicians get re-elected and can help researchers get grants for more research.

We should be examining the situation more closely than most people have considered. The fact that interest rates cannot drop much further is particularly concerning.

Our Finite World by Gail Tverberg

14 Comments on "The true feasibility of moving away from fossil fuels"

  1. Dredd on Wed, 10th Apr 2019 10:24 am 

    Conclusion: We can’t know exactly what is ahead, but it is clear that moving away from fossil fuels will be far more destructive of our current economy than nearly everyone expects.” – Gail Tvergerg

    The only thing more destructive that that is not moving away from fossil fuels.

  2. Noel on Wed, 10th Apr 2019 10:32 am 

    I agree completely, humans will not volentaraly reduce their quality of life, this has been demonstrated over time in many civilizations. Oil, coal and gas represent and unique period in earths history when we “won” the energy lottery and this allowed a large number of people to live the life of kings. This time is ending and a reversion to pre industrial times is likely. No techno wishing for something else will work, please see James Howard Kunstler

  3. Dredd on Wed, 10th Apr 2019 10:43 am 

    Noel “No techno wishing”

    Fossil fuel use is the product of the techno religion, one of the oldest religions (How To Identify The Despotic Minority – 11).

  4. Noel on Wed, 10th Apr 2019 11:30 am 

    Dredd, by techno wishing, I mean that the idea of replacing a low complexity system (fossil fuels) with a higher complexity (solar and wind) that they themselves require fossil fuels to be produced (smelting, carbon fiber, concrete…)does not solve the problem, it only exaserbates it. I would suggest you read


    There is not “Despotic” collusion here, only market forces and human desire. We are in the 3rd to 4th phase of civilization collapse, the time when added complexity only reduces efficiency. We (humans) will not leave fossil fuels, fossil fuels will leave us

  5. Pee Wee Herman on Wed, 10th Apr 2019 11:35 am 

    “The only thing more destructive that that is not moving away from fossil fuels.”

    If you read the article or have thought it through, you can’t. Industrial civilization was created because of fossil fuels. Moving away from FF would collapse the world. That means no more just in time deliveries, no more cars mase, no solar or wind because they require FF inputs.

    Gov’t’s would go bankrupt and collapse, which would collapse the global fraud economy. How are you going to grow food and harvest them to feed 8 billion humans? You can’t because the soil has been addicted to chemical based fertilizers, without them, nothing grows or if it does, you are not going to feed the 8 billion people on this planet.

    It’s basically FF’s or Bust. Take your pick.

  6. Cloggie on Wed, 10th Apr 2019 12:43 pm 

    If you read the article or have thought it through, you can’t. Industrial civilization was created because of fossil fuels. Moving away from FF would collapse the world.

    Most humans were initially fed by mum’s milk.

    That doesn’t mean that humans “collapse” by the minute that source of energy “runs dry”.

    Usually, humans move on to the next source of energy.

    I’m sure you all get the analogy.

  7. Dredd on Wed, 10th Apr 2019 1:04 pm 

    Noel … agreed, except that the despotic minority is as real and as serious as its thousands of years of recorded history.

    Pee Wee … agreed, but worse is worse.

  8. Antius on Wed, 10th Apr 2019 3:08 pm 

    A good article. One initial point I would make is that direct comparison of energy from renewable energy sources to net energy consumption is a little misleading.

    Most of the the energy that humans consume from from fossil fuels ends up being dumped as useless waste heat. A coal power plant is 30% efficient; a car engine is typically about 10% efficient under urban driving patterns, because braking energy is wasted.

    The energy from wind turbines, hydro electric power and solar PV, is electricity or direct mechanical power, with a very high thermodynamic work potential. Electric motors are 60-95% efficient; ground source heat pumps provide up to five units of heat from one unit of mechanical energy.

    There are huge specific problems with bulk transition from dispatchable fossil to intermittent renewable energy. More on that later.

  9. makati1 on Wed, 10th Apr 2019 6:37 pm 

    One can read/write all of the articles you want on alt-energy/FFs/etc. but in the end, it all leads DOWN the ladder, not up or even level. Those who don’t ‘have’ will continue to climb the ladder until there is a balance, but it will be far lower than that enjoyed by the Western world today. As that happens, the West will be sliding down the ladder to meet them. Then, all will slowly descend to a level most do not want to think about today.

    It will be easiest for those who never had, but the pain for those who did ‘have’ will be tremendous. Most of the West. Start now to descend the ladder on your own terms, while you still can. It will be much harder when the ladder is pulled out from under you if you are on the top rung instead of farther down. Think about it and start today.

  10. makati1 on Thu, 11th Apr 2019 4:30 am 

    Antius, and those “problems” are why it will never happen except in small percentages in some locations. There is no money for the scope needed to redo the world’s energy system. Nor is there the public will. Who is going to cut their FF use so the amount “saved” can be used for the transition? Answer: NOONE! Unicorn fairy tales….

  11. Antius on Thu, 11th Apr 2019 8:48 am 

    The overwhelming problem with replacing fossil energy with renewable energy systems is the much higher embodied energy of renewable energy infrastructure. It takes a lot more steel and concrete to produce 1MWh of electricity from wind power than it does for nuclear power, coal or natural gas turbines. This makes EROI relatively weak. The reason for this is simple: the low power density of the resource. It is unavoidable, because we cannot change the nature of the resource. It is why I generally favour the expansion of nuclear power over industrial scale renewable energy, but as an engineer I look for ways of making both systems work.

    It will therefore be very difficult to build the required capacity to replace existing energy consumption in an environment in which fossil fuel EROI is already declining. But there are some strategies that will help.

    Making wind turbines and solar power plants bigger may be useful to a limited extent. Under equal wind conditions, bigger turbines require more materials per MW, because the mass of the turbine increases with the cube of height, but turbine swept area (and power) increases with the square of height. However, increasing wind speed with increasing tower height means that bigger turbines still come out ahead, but we can expect diminishing returns with increasing scale beyond a certain point. Solar power plants also demonstrate better EROI with increasing scale; so bigger is generally better.

    Minimise the need for energy storage. Many renewable energy advocates assume that storage will eliminate problems of intermittency, by absorbing excess electrical power during times of plenty and releasing it during lulls in wind and solar power production. However, this strategy has severe problems because it implies further embodied energy and energy losses, in a system for which EROI is already weak. An energy store is basically another power station; absorbing intermittent energy and spitting out a smaller amount of controllable energy on demand. It takes money and energy to build it and maintain it and storage implies losses. A better strategy is to adapt demand to supply and to store end-use energy in limited amounts where it is relatively cheap; i.e. as hot and cold in suitably insulated containers. Labour laws and working arrangements need to shift such that people work when power is abundant and take time off when it is not. The problem can be further mitigated by using a mixture of different renewable energy sources over a dispersed geographical area, using the electrical grid to deliver the energy.

    Renewable energy will struggle to meet existing transport and heating loads, because of the sheer amount of energy that they consume. To a limited extent, hybrid vehicles allow for modest amounts of renewable energy to supplement fossil fuels. A reduction in the weight and power of vehicles, the introduction of regenerative braking and generally a reduction in the number of private vehicles by increasing the capacity of public transport will all help. Generally, transport needs to shift to different modes that use smaller amounts of (preferably intermittent) energy. Hence my advocacy of bulk freight transport in hydraulic capsule pipelines, which are basically unmanned underground canals between two distant points. They propel large volumes of freight at low speed; can be powered by grid electric pumps (without any energy storage) or direct mechanical wind power. They can also vary their speed depending upon energy availability. Direct electric powered buses, coaches and trucks on highways can also absorb intermittent electricity using variable speed limits. They can transport people between motorway service stations, and shorter range vehicles can then transport them into cities or other specific locations. In these ways, transport is both energy efficient and works off direct grid electric power, without any losses or costs associated with energy storage.

    Heat storage within homes and the use of ground source heat pumps; allow smaller amounts of intermittent grid electric power to provide heating, or even direct renewable heating from a wind turbine or solar heating panel.

    There are other strategies that can be made to work as well. Wind machines can be simplified to provide direct mechanical power in niche applications. An aerial rope way is a crude but effective transport system that could be powered by direct mechanical wind energy in some specific applications. A wind turbine could also be directly coupled to a piston air compressor or a hydraulic pump and used to power equipment without the need for complex electrical generators or rare earth elements. Again, we are reducing embodied energy by eliminating complexity. Also, clusters of wind turbines can be used to generate direct hydraulic power that then powers a central ground based electrical generator. The turbines themselves would have few mechanical parts. The central ‘hydraulic power station’ would essentially be a hydroelectric plant without the dam. Huge flywheels could be coupled to its turbines to store limited amounts of mechanical energy prior to electricity generation.

    We cannot avoid the shit that is coming. But lateral thinking will help.

  12. Davy on Thu, 11th Apr 2019 10:26 am 

    I am advocating the above alternative renewable energy ideas in my Real Green platform. We must reduce the status quo of on demand and discretionary towards intermittency, seasonality, and low tech. Where low tech, seasonal, and intermittency can be adequate they should be applied. The current approach is anything more potent and efficient is applied when affordable and with debt these days so much can be afforded. The problem then becomes malinvested resources in systems without resilience and sustainability. Further the problem becomes expensive investments that then do not meet the requirements of return on investment that all debt must include.

    Real Green starts with a localization. Energy intensity and availability can be modulated according to need. Localized efforts are easier to modulate but this does not mean centralized systems need be rejected. It is the application of both to their best comparative advantage that should be the focus. Critical systems could be well stocked 24/7 and less critical not. Other applications could be intermittent and seasonal based on price. The more intermittent/seasonal the less cost. Rural areas could return to a time not too long ago where power was not always there. These areas could be a hybrid off the grid with minimal baseline power. Biomass, solar, wind, animal, plus some fossil fuels could allow them to decouple to an extent. Transport likewise could be adapted to the value of need. Working environments and leisure adapted accordingly.

    This is all fine in the theoretical but getting from here to there is really much more complicated because of the sensitivity that economies have to constructive and destructive change. A clear policy with economic support would have to be part of the effort. Education and the creation of a new social compact complete with a new narrative of value is a must. This all is likely too much for a system that currently can barely get along and agree on trivial matters.

    This then points to small groups and individuals who are awakened and honest with the science of what is going on around us. There are many people for a variety of reason that can’t change and or don’t want to. Those who can should. It will be those who can and do that will blaze the trail. At the national level with governments and business there is an effort at change but one must realize this change is in context of the status quo. Instead of adapting to intermittency and lower energy density of renewables the effort is to make renewables adapt to the status quo as if the status quo in nonnegotiable. While these efforts to integrate renewables into the current energy systems are vital they are not the answer.

    The answer is relocalization and deindustrialization of at least some parts of the status quo. This is counter to sustainable development that looks towards modernizing when the opposite is needed. It is possible there could be parts of our way of life that remain as they are now and parts that would return to an earlier way of life. The problem with this is corruption. The earlier ways of life are vulnerable to those who remain in the more potent modern status quo of 24/7 power on demand and consumption as needed. This then points to a social compact that would have to ensure the rights of people who voluntarily withdraw some or much of their modernity. It should still include resources such as education, healthcare, and security, etc.

    If nothing else some need to make this change to provide the experimentations that will provide experience for greater numbers of people who may take this journey later once the need is mainstream. Governments should be at a minimum supporting some alternative communities or at least not inhibiting them with taxes, zoning, and negative economic penalties that come with not being status quo. The time is now and the necessity of it great. This will require sacrifice and lower physical reward but if done correctly provide meaning and actualization that survival strategies naturally enlist.

  13. makati1 on Thu, 11th Apr 2019 11:50 pm 

    Attention! Anyone posting long winded bullshit articles over 1,000 words should not bother. No one reads them. They are only exercises in arrogance. No one cares.

    What are you trying to prove? That you are in need of attention? Aww! LMAO

  14. Davy on Fri, 12th Apr 2019 5:18 am 

    Is this jealousy, makato? Your problem is the extent of what you are capable of saying is “slip sliding” or “we shall see”. You also support noise from annoymouse and Mr. lunatic JuanP. You don’t have to read it makato. On certain subjects how can you say something in a few lines? You are an old man that is increasingly just a bag of shit. Thanks for lowing your posting lately! BTW, your typical night is posting multiple stupid comments that add up to much more than one of my long comments.

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