Preface. We are caught in the carbon trap — we utterly depend on fossils that don’t have an electric replacement. Someday people will figure this out the hard way, but Chefurka compassionately points out that there is no one to blame for our situation, and it’s not something we can do anything about.
Here are just a few ways our lives depend on fossils:
Petroleum diesel powers the transportation that matters: heavy-duty trucks, rail, and ships
Manufacturing depends on process heat and steam generated by fossil fuels
Energy to keep the electric grid up around the clock
The majority of people alive today should thank natural-gas based fertilizers, and oil-based pesticides, herbicides, and insecticides
Half a million products are made out of fossil fuels and with energy from fossil fuels
The natural gas that heats homes and businesses.
- About 90% of homes and businesses depend on fossil fuels for heat, mainly natural gas (EIA 2018).
- Generating heat from electricity today is terrifically wasteful. Two-thirds of electricity is generated by burning natural gas and coal, and two-thirds of this coal and natural gas energy vanishes as heat, plus another 6-10% is lost on the wires, so only 24 to 28% arrives at homes and businesses. It’s far better to use fossils onsite to generate heat.
Alice Friedemann www.energyskeptic.com author of “When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation”, 2015, Springer and “Crunch! Whole Grain Artisan Chips and Crackers”. Podcasts: Practical Prepping, KunstlerCast 253, KunstlerCast278, Peak Prosperity , XX2 report
Whether we realize it or not, everyone living on planet Earth today is caught in what I have come to call the “carbon trap”. The nature of the trap is simple, and can be described in one sentence:
Our continued existence depends on the very thing that is killing us – the combustion of our planet’s ancient stocks of carbon.
This unfortunate situation was not intentional, and is no one’s fault.
The trap was constructed well outside of our conscious view or understanding.
Its design came from our evolved desires for status, material comfort and security.
We recognized its seductive promise long before we knew enough science to discover its hidden hook.
It was built with the best of intentions by well-meaning scientists and engineers, whose knowledge of the consequences was both incomplete and clouded by their own evolved desire for a better life.
Most of us, even those who are aware of our predicament, distract ourselves by creating and admiring elaborate and luxurious appointments for our carbon-clad prison.
Many who can see the bars spend their time dreaming of ways to slip through them into the world outside – a world of natural freedom that they can see but never reach.
Those who are fully aware of the trap also understand that we now need it to survive; that leaving it (if that were even possible) would be as fatal as staying inside. We are victims of what complex systems scientists call “path dependence” – where we came from and how we got here puts strict limits on what is now possible for us to do.
One of the things we can’t do is simply open the door and leave. Even the fact that our carbon-barred prison is now on fire can’t change the cold equations. We are condemned to wait here until the walls burn down, when a few soot-blackened survivors may stumble out into the blasted and barren landscape left behind by our self-absorbed construction project.
This is why I believe that the one quality most needed in the world today is compassion.