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Oil Shale Development: Looming Threat to Western Wildlands

Oil shales, if they live up to proponents’ expectations and can be produced commercially, could change the economic and political fortunes of the United States and transform the geopolitical map of the world. But any large-scale effort to exploit oil shales will threaten wildlife habitat and water quality, and exacerbate climate change. This is a […]

Cap the Grid

As a species, we must learn to live within the physical limitations of the biosphere. In the electric energy sector, this requires reversing the worldwide trend of ever‑expanding electricity supply grids carrying energy vast distances from more and more large, centralized power plants. “Capping the grid” is a crucial step toward reducing greenhouse gas pollution […]

The Whole Fracking Enchilada

A natural gas production boom made possible by new technology — horizontal drilling and hydrofracking — is being touted as a “game changer” in the energy landscape. It also portends massive damage for families, communities, and wildlife as drilling-related pollution violates the bedrock, the atmosphere, and everything in between.” This is a chapter from The […]

Energy Return on Investment

Energy return on investment (EROI) is the ratio of energy returned from an energy-gathering activity compared to the energy invested in that process. While EROI by itself is not enough to judge the virtues or vices of particular fuels or energy sources, it is a crucial component for such assessments because it indicates whether a […]

Outsourcing Pollution and Energy-Intensive Production

Globalization has largely been seen in the context of the outsourcing of information technologies. But the larger outsourcing that globalization is leading to is the outsourcing of pollution and the energy-intensive production of goods. The corporations and consumers of the rich global North thus bear some responsibility for increased greenhouse gas emissions in the poorer […]

The False Promise of Clean Coal

The coal industry’s slick advertisements promoting “clean coal” employ twenty-first century media techniques to keep us locked into a nineteenth century energy economy. A classic greenwashing campaign, it uses the iconography of sexy technology and down-home Americana to maintain the status quo: Big Coal’s influence over energy politics. This is a chapter from The ENERGY […]

The Case for Conservation

Sooner or later we must make conservation the centerpiece of economic and energy policy. Energy conservation is the best strategy for pre-adapting to an energy-constrained future and our best hope for averting economic, social, and ecological ruin. The transition to a more durable and resilient but lower-energy economy will go much better if we plan […]

Retooling the Planet

Powerful corporations and governments of developed nations are the ones with the budgets and technology to execute geoengineering schemes. There is no reason to trust they will have the rights of more vulnerable states or peoples in mind, and the risk to the planet’s ecological integrity is great. This is a chapter from The ENERGY […]