Submitted to the Economist online debate 20 August 2008 10:38
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Comment on: Global energy crisis | Online debates | Economist.com at 8/20/2008 10:38 AM EDT
Both gentlemen are mistaken.
There is no energy crisis in that we would have insufficient energy. We have too much energy and that's why humanity has arrived at this moment of time at a situation of total overshoot of the earth's carrying capacity.
A crisis is a situation in which a maximum has been reached, after which things can turn for the better or towards collapse and death.
The maximum of energy availability (Peak Oil) may be attained within some years. Thereafter availability will decline, without any chance for compensation by any of the so-called "wedges" that Joseph J. Romm talks about.
There are simply no sufficient raw materials, space and cooling water available to realise those projects.
On the other hand both gentlemen forget the ceteris paribus - all other things staying equal - condition. All other things will not stay equal. After Peak Oil industrial and agricultural production will decline with increasing speeds, because they depend on liquid fossil fuels for traction, manufacturing, distribution and fertilisers.
Population with continue to grow. Depletion of renewable and non-renewable resources is increasing in line with population growth and aggravated by increasing economic growth, i.e. rising per capita consumption.
Additionally the ffects of non-stoppable climate change - drought and floods - will cause great hardship and modify people's rpiorities.
Ultimately poeple's may end in a total war for the remaining resources.
Thus Peter Meisen is equally on the wrong track with his optimism that fails to meet realities, wanting to "elevate all mankind to higher, sustainable living standards" by hybrids, hydrogen and the like.
Both gentlemen do not recognise the seriousnes of the environmental depletion and destruction, and the primordial fact that energy and climate change are "only" a part of the total environmental problems humankind is facing. Neither do they see the extreme urgency for doing something that works now, based upon today's knowledge.
If we want a chance for our own living children to survive, we must stop the economic growth paradigm, and start contracting our per capita consumption. Many non-essential ways of modern life must and can be abolished, such as motorised transportation.
We need to relocalise production and consumption, live where we work and thus eliminate much costly transportation of goods and people.
And all countries must start a no-nonsense democratic "stop population growth" drive. Any success on the resource front will be made void by population growth.
Those are material realities that cannot be argued away by theories, hope and optimism.
- Helmut Lubbers environment scientist for ecoglobe dot org and ecoglobe dot ch
Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran
Correspondent, The Economist
Mr Vaitheeswaran's current portfolio at The Economist now encompasses global health, biotechnology, and innovation. His latest book, "ZOOM: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future", co-authored with Economist colleague Iain Carson, has been named a Book of the Year by the Financial Times.
Joseph J. Romm
Senior Fellow, Centre for American Progress
Dr Romm is also the executive director and founder of the non-profit Centre for Energy and Climate Solutions, which helps businesses and American state governments adopt high-leverage strategies for saving energy while cutting pollution and greenhouse-gas emissions.
President, Global Energy Network Institute
In 1989, Mr Meisen founded the Global Energy Network Institute to conduct research and to educate business leaders and policymakers to a strategy for linking renewable energy resources around the world.
President, American Council on Renewable Energy (ACORE)
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