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Regulatory Illusion

The 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico briefly focused attention on how the oil and gas industry exploits public resources with little or no accountability. But the larger problem of how corporations and governments engage in a charade of regulation proceeds largely unnoticed. This sham regulatory process has failed to stem […]

River Killers: The False Solution of Megadams

Destroying wild rivers to generate electricity is a false solution to humanity’s need for energy, with extremely high costs to individuals, communities, and ecosystems. The negative impacts of large dams are multidimensional—degrading watersheds, riparian zones, coastal ecosystems, and even oceans. We must reject the lure of megadams and the energy gluttony they perpetuate, which deters […]

Life-Affirming Beauty

There is a relationship between sustainability and beauty. Beauty is our way of describing encounters with life-affirmative patterns of relationships. The current energy economy produces ugliness, a form of violence against the world and its creatures, which have aesthetic worth and intrinsic value. Does our inability to speak forthrightly about ugliness make us unintentionally complicit […]

Malevolent and Malignant Threats

Malevolent threats to national security are the product of human choice, such as terrorists choosing to attack our electricity grid or oil production facilities in the Middle East. Malignant threats are associated with the collapse of a complex system — the electric grid, a human body, the Earth’s climate — when it is unintentionally disturbed […]

Five Carbon Pools

The invention of agriculture ten millennia ago was the first step towards the current problem of climate change. Humans then began a way of life that would exploit the first of five relatively nonrenewable pools of energy-rich carbon–soil. Trees, coal, oil, and natural gas would follow as additional pools to rob from. We are the […]

Progress vs. Apocalypse: the Stories We Tell Ourselves

Discussions about peak oil and the predicament of industrial society constantly revolve around two completely different, and in fact opposite, sets of assumptions and beliefs about the future. Most people insist that no matter what problems crop up before us, modern science, technology, and raw human ingenuity will inevitable win out and make the world […]

The ENERGY Reader: Introduction

Our goal is to help change the national and global conversation about energy–to help it evolve quickly from one of how to grow energy production to one of how to shrink our appetites to fit nature’s ability to sustain itself. Take a good look at what it takes to power our human world of cities […]

The View from Oil’s Peak

“Peak oil” – when petroleum extraction globally reaches its maximum and begins an inevitable decline – may be near, and the consequences are likely to be devastating to societies accustomed to abundant, inexpensive fossil fuels. Petroleum is the world’s most important energy resource. There is no ready substitute, and decades will be required to wean […]

Distributed Renewable Generation: Why It Should Be The Centerpiece of U.S. Energy Policy

Industrial-scale wind and solar power projects can produce significant quantities of renewable energy, but distributed renewable energy generation—particularly rooftop photovoltaic installations—can achieve the same objective much faster without the environmental harm and at lower cost. With state and federal policies that favor distributed energy, the U.S. could greatly expand the direct involvement of individuals and […]

Faustian Economics: Hell Hath No Limits

We have founded our present society upon delusional assumptions of limitlessness. Our national faith is a sort of autistic industrialism. This necessarily leads to limitless violence, waste, war, and destruction. Our great need now is for sciences and technologies of limits. The limits would be the accepted contexts of places, communities, and neighborhoods, both natural […]