Richard Heinberg on Our Renewable Future
March 4, 2015
Richard Heinberg discusses our renewable future and how to get there.
Richard is the author of eleven books including:
– Afterburn (April 2015)
– Snake Oil (July 2013)
– The End of Growth (August 2011)
– Peak Everything: Waking Up to the Century of Declines (2007)
– The Party’s Over: Oil, War & the Fate of Industrial Societies (2003)
Total run time: 29:00
Host: David Swanson.
Producer: David Swanson.
Music by Duke Ellington.
Originally published at Talk Nation Radio.
Read Richard’s recent essay Our Renewable Future – Or, What I’ve Learned in 12 Years Writing about Energy.
Wind turbines teaser image via sutterstock. Reproduced at Resilience.org with permission.
Support Richard’s work by pre-ordering his new book Afterburn: Society Beyond Fossil Fuels or making a donation.
I am glad Richard understands just how energy intensive renewable energy infrastructure really is. Just imagine a full solar powered country for a moment. The design, manufacture, installation, operation, maintenance, upgrades and the final decommission (the full engineering cycle) of not only the solar panels but the entire advanced electrical grid, the semiconductor fabs needed for the high and low power control systems, the energy storage systems (water reservoirs, batteries, compressed air underground caverns, etc.), the feeding of all the personnel needed for all the operations (there needs to be enough net energy left over to have these people freed up to leave the needed farm work), the powering of all the mining and transportation vehicles needed throughout the cycle, etc. Now, imagine all of that without the fossil fuel crutch.
Once you do that and go through all the numbers, it becomes very obvious that only the rich and powerful, using massive amounts of slave labor, are going to enjoy any of these energy intensive systems. The masses are going to be on farms, just like they were before fossil fuels were burned for energy.
One final realization of major concern is that humans were in balance with nature when their numbers were under 1 billion people. Now imagine how we are going to feed our current 7 billion people without said fossil fuels. Not only are humans powering down, their numbers are going to decline back to those sustainable values. What kind of behaviors are we going to see as far too many humans go after ever declining amounts of resources? Knowing human history, resource wars are coming, unprecedented in size.
Even if humanity does figure out the energy problem, you cannot get around the fact that humans are currently using Earth’s natural, renewable resources at a rate at least seven times faster than can be replenished. In conclusion. Humans do not have an energy crisis, we have a natural resource limitation crisis. We can only fish the oceans, use the soil, drink fresh water, pollute the air and rivers and cut down the forests so quickly before we go into resource overshoot. This is the true crisis facing humanity and we are near the limits for most of Earth’s critical resources.
It seems that your observations lead to the conclusion that the humans who need to decline are those who are abusing the industrial method the most – US !
No, that is not the conclusion I would make. Yes, that would free up 25% of Earth’s resources for a while but the decline will continue, regardless. The rest of the 6.6 billion people will continue to do massive damage and see resource depletion, all on their own, thank you very much.