The Nation’s Oldest Weekly Channels PCI
August 6, 2015
Yesterday The Nation published a must-read article on how the drop in oil prices is shaking the foundation of the so-called “shale revolution” and how renewable energy is poised to take off.
Right now, our fossil-fueled energy path has us on a roller-coaster ride and we are plunging, white knuckled. Production in the United States from the exploitation of shale oil (or tight oil), which accounts for 45 percent of the country’s oil production, will take a hit if prices continue to remain well below the $100 mark. Tens of thousands of jobs have already been cut, and some debt-laden companies may go belly up.
This is the narrative that has been seizing headlines, but it’s not the whole story of what’s going on in our energy economy. While shales were booming and then busting, solar and wind have been surging. Renewables have been relegated to the sidelines of our energy priorities, a small blip in our electric generating capacity each year, but that is changing. How fast it happens could be enough to rock the boat in a major way.
The article resonated with us at PCI deeply, and not just because it feature interviews with two of our fellows, David Hughes and David Fridley). The central messages in the article are 1) that fossil fuels (and particularly shale gas and tight oil) are a dead end road and 2) that, while we’re headed for a future powered largely by renewable energy, the renewable future will require a major shift in how we live.
These two messages have been central to Post Carbon Institute’s work over the last few years. Since 2011, PCI has been the leading voice challenging mainstream hype of the abundance of shale gas and oil. This year we are embarking on one of our most ambitious projects ever—exploring the challenges and opportunities of the renewable energy transition and what a 100% renewable energy future might actually look like. And so it’s rewarding to see America’s oldest weekly magazine exploring both of these topics.
Fridley, the scientist from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, has also called for a deeper conversation on what a path to renewables would look like. Most of the focus has been on how to use renewables to fill our electricity needs, but this is just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to all the energy we use in our highly industrialized lives.
Globally, electricity accounts for only about 20 percent of our final energy consumption, says Fridley, and even if we hit 50 percent renewables for electricity, we still have only addressed about 10 percent of how much energy the world consumes.
“Yes, we can have a renewable world, but it’s not really going to look like the world we have today,” says Fridley. “It could be a better world to live in, it could be a much worse world to live in, depending on many of the decisions we make in the next decade or two.”
But enough feather-capping. We want to hear from you:
Do you think we’re on the cusp of a renewable energy revolution or will we burn every last hydrocarbon we can get our hands on? What will the energy transition look like? Can we keep growing the economy while switching to renewable energy sources? Will the transition to renewable energy solve all of our economic and environmental problems?
Please tell us what you think in the comments below!