Environmental groups, pundits, politicians, and the average citizen think alternative energy is a solution to climate change and the energy crisis. It took me years to figure out why this wasn’t true. I can speed your learning curve up — for a quick overview read LBL scientist David Fridley on alternative energy. For a deeper understanding, see my alternative energy reading list.
It’s popular to say that even if fossil fuels are declining, we still have enough left to burn the planet up. Not true! That’s the “good news” about peak fossil fuels. Humans and millions of other species probably won’t go extinct and we won’t be able to cross all 9 boundaries.
We’re not only at peak oil, we’re at peak coal and peak natural gas. The remaining fuel is far away, under water or ice, deep down, nasty, gunky, and often has less energy than the good stuff we’ve already extracted. Methane hydrates have been, and always will be, impossible to use.
I’m grateful that Lehmer-Chang realistically looks at how to descend the energy ladder. We need more leaders like him who have spent the past decade working on the transition to a lower energy world.
Aaron G. Lehmer-Chang. Preparedness Matters More than CO2 Targets. Winter 2014. Earth Island Journal.
“Instead of saddling future generations with a crumbling, oil-dependent infrastructure, our legacy must be to carefully apply the resources we have left to fertilize, fortify, and beautify our world. We face challenging times ahead from the global warming that is already coming, along with the consequences of overshooting our planet’s resource limits. We must brace ourselves. All of this will require redirecting fossil fuels from wasteful consumption toward these ends”:
- Shift our infrastructure away from fossil-fuel dependency
- Migrate threatened coastal communities and economies inland
- Rehabilitate rural economies
- Replenish eroded soils
- Rebuild diverse local food systems
- As the snow pack diminishes from climate change, we’ll need rainwater catchment, reforested watersheds, and efficient irrigation systems.
- As sea levels rise, we’ll need to build more dikes, levees, and channels.
- We’ll need to de-pave many of our streets, and parking lots to free up space for growing food, open up covered creeks, and reseed natural landscapes.
- We’ll need to energy retrofit our buildings
- revitalize rail transport lines
- Retool our decaying manufacturing infrastructure.
I know from having followed Bay Localize for many years that these are just a fraction of the ideas Lehmer-Chang has about how to cope with the energy transition ahead.
This is in my “What to Do” section, but the whole article is worth reading because peak oil and climate change issues are brought together. Climate change activists do not want to recognize peaking of fossil fuels because it is threatens their existence, since if fossil fuels are declining, then so will greenhouse gases. Climate Change activists propose a switch to alternative energy. That appeals to a broad audience. It’s certainly not de-paving, “50 million farmers”, and other realistic ideas that people don’t want to hear. Kunstler brilliantly explains how we came to be such a “magical thinking / techno-optimist” society in his book “Too Much Magic: Wishful Thinking, Technology, and the Fate of the Nation“. It’s sure looking like our inability to face reality is going to make the energy transition more of a cliff than a walkable slope.
People and organizations that don’t have happy optimistic ideas find it hard to raise money, gain followers, and sell books. The demand for positive thinking at all times and places is driving us away from realistic solutions. I applaud Aaron Lehmer and hope that Earth Island Journal will publish his writing more often and do more to get Bay Localize the attention this organization deserves.