Sunday, January 22, 2012

Oil sands and the real meaning of "low energy futures"

In green thinking, there is much romanticizing of “low energy futures”. Centred around so called “energy descent towns” which are supposed to lead the way to a finite world of absolute limits, there is a firm belief among environmentalists that “big science” can never deliver sufficient energy to everyone and that we have to realize that “the party is over”. The problem, as I repeatedly have argued, is that very few people, in particular in growing countries like China, Brazil and India but also in the United States, find that future appealing. Yet, many of those who reject the environmentalist worldview also reject the very real realities of the coming energy crunch as traditional petroleum reserves are running out while demand is skyrocketing. This is why I have argued that environmentalists in rich countries have a unique responsibility to support big science and breakthrough solutions to the world’s energy needs (such as nuclear fusion).

Without that support and access to energy technologies that are substantially cleaner and cheaper, I am afraid that the “low energy future” will in reality translate into nothing else than what already seeing in terms of oil sands, gas shale fracking and massive environmental destruction.



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