Unlike conventional fossil fuels, where nature provided energy over millions of years to convert biomass into energy-dense solids, liquids, and gases--requiring only extraction and transportation technolgy for us to mobilize them--alternative energy depends heavily on specially engineered equipment and infrastructure for capture or conversion, essentially making it a high-tech manufacturing process. However, the full supply chain for alternative energy, from raw material to manufacturing, is still very dependent on fossil-fuel energy for mining, transport, and materials production. Alternative energy faces the challenge of how to supplant a fossil-fuel-based supply chain with one driven by alternative energy forms themselves in order to break their reliance on a fossil-fuel foundation.



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From the Post Carbon Institute/Watershed Media Book:

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The Post Carbon Reader

Managing the 21st Century’s Sustainability Crises

Edited by Richard Heinberg and Daniel Lerch

Table of Contents
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about The Post Carbon Reader

How do population, water, energy, food, and climate issues impact one another? What can we do to address one problem without making the others worse? The Post Carbon Reader features essays by some of the world’s most provocative thinkers on the key issues shaping our new century, from renewable energy and urban agriculture to social justice and community resilience. This insightful collection takes a hard-nosed look at the interconnected threats of our global sustainability quandary and presents some of the most promising responses.

Contributors to The Post Carbon Reader are some of the world's leading sustainability thinkers, including Bill McKibben, Richard Heinberg, Stephanie Mills, David Orr, Wes Jackson, Erika Allen, Gloria Flora, and dozens more.

Published by Watershed Media
Forthcoming in October
440 pages, 6 x 9“, 4 b/w photographs, 26 line illustrations
$21.95 paper 978-0-9709500-6-2

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Reader Comments


electric cars

From: d. lance gray, Sep 14, 10 04:24 AM

I would like to see a report that shows the carbon footprint for producing, re charging and disposing of the batteries for electric cars. Also, what will the carbon footprint be for retrofitting parking garages with recharging capabilities? How much will it cost to replace the battery pack in an electric car?


From: Tom Wayburn, Sep 1, 10 02:12 AM

The ERoEI for each energy technology is all I need, but without it I cannot determine how much fossil fuel it would take to produce enough of that technology to reproduce itself and be self-sufficient in perpetuity. If the ERoEI is less than 1.o, the technology requires more research and should not be used. ERoEI should be calculated according to to make the ERoEI > 1.0 the test for feasibility. This is an unambiguous test. No other way of computing ER0EI is adequate.

Lo-Tech Alternative Energy, too.

From: R. Bruce Denney, Aug 23, 10 07:58 AM

Not all alternative energy is technological in nature beyond say, the manufacture of glass and their high efficiency versions. Passive solar homes are working in almost unimaginable areas of the country. Solar water heat was one of the first lo-tech successes and can be effective in even quite adverse climates. Solar cooling and cooking are also well proven passive solar capacities as well.
Neither passive solar nor conservation will power your car, television or cell phone relay tower, but can free up the technological capacity to provide for these (percieved) "needs" on a much greater scale than would otherwise be possible.
USAmericans are typified with such great Hubris that even now, these steps are rare and thought "Oddball".