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Reinventing Fire

Fossil fuels created modern civilization, but their rising costs—to health, security, and economic progress—are starting to eclipse their benefits, undermining the prosperity and security they enabled. At the same time, technological innovation has quietly been making fossil fuels obsolete. In history’s greatest infrastructure shift, spanning the entire economy, humans are inventing a new fire: not […]

The Landscape of Energy

It would be wise to approach our energy future with two related thoughts in mind: first, the precautionary principle, and second, the law of unintended consequences. Using that perspective, this section of the book reviews the major energy resources and their transportation methods. We consider the current status of each resource as well as any other […]

Sweet and Sour: The Curse of Oil in the Niger Delta

Since it began producing oil in earnest in 1956, Nigeria has become the poster child for the environmental, social, and economic devastation that can be wrought by unfettered fossil fuel production. This is a chapter from The ENERGY Reader: Overdevelopment and the Delusion of Endless Growth (2012). Read online Sweet and Sour: The Curse o… […]

Nuclear Power and the Earth

Nuclear power has gained renewed traction in recent years as the world’s countries seek climate-friendly alternatives to fossil fuels. But public health risks, continued dependence on public subsidies, and the seemingly intractable problem of long-term nuclear waste storage make nuclear power a poor solution to our energy needs. This is a chapter from The ENERGY […]

What Is Sustainability?

As a contribution to this ongoing refinement of the concept, I recently formulated five axioms (self-evident truths) of sustainability. My goal was simply to distill ideas that had been proposed previously and put them into a concise, easy-to-understand form. The First Axiom Any society that continues to use critical resources unsustainably will collapse. Exception: A […]

Ecological Economics

Many people would agree that the central desirable end of economic activity is a high quality of life for this and future generations.  Conventional economists argue that humans are insatiable, and therefore economics should focus on endless economic growth and ever-increasing consumption.  Considerable evidence, however, suggests that humans are in fact satiable&emdash;there is a point […]