Sunday 15 December 2013

Heating Up The Debate On Energy

A long article in Our Finite World deals with the whole question of how energy matters might underpin the whole function of our global economy and where we are going.  It is not optimistic by reason of the hard economics of energy demand and supply.

It ends:

Most authors of academic articles assume that the challenge we are facing is one that can be solved over the next, say, fifty years. They also seem to believe that the fixes required are simply small adjustments to our current economy. This assumption seems optimistic, if we are really approaching financial collapse.

If we are in fact near the crisis stage described by Turchin and Nefedov, we will need to do something much closer to “start over”. We need to build a new economy that will work, rather than just “tweak” the current one.

New (or radically changed) government and financial systems will likely be needed–ones that are much less expensive for taxpayers to fund. We are also likely to need to cut back on basic services, including maintaining paved roads and repairing long-distance electricity transmission lines.

Because of these changes, whole new ways of doing things will be needed. EROI (energy return on investment) analyses that have been to date represent analyses of how our current system operates. If major changes are needed, their indications may no longer be relevant.

We cannot simply go backward, because methods that worked in the past, such as using draft horses and buggy whips, will no longer be available without a long development period. We are truly facing an unprecedented situation–one that is very hard to prepare for.


In the meantime in the UK we are rapidly increasing demand as well as population, promising energy price freezes, putting up windmills, covering fertile land with solar panels and not only buying wood burning stoves for our homes but thinking of converting some of our largest power stations, such as Eggborough above, to wood burning as well.

In the wider world many "developing" countries will not do to but will contract unless they have direct energy of their own. Others in the middling categories will have very mixed fortunes, mostly adverse.

In the "developed" world, now almost all dependent on strong economic growth to cover debt and potential liabilities there will be varied results. 

One more common one will be a great majority of once rich nations whose middling and lower orders become impoverished but with an elite minority remaining wealthy.


  1. Maybe we should go back to coal and engineering for a few decades and forget about awarding degrees in media studies.

  2. A good quality world war will reduce the population and redistribute wealth.
    Effete Euope will probably go leaving materials for China and other survivors.
    The problem of jihad will go. As , very likely , multiculturism.