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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 […]

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 […]