Could we build a future without fossil fuels?

Thanks to @JoanneJacobs for putting this into my tweet stream. Thanks to @aeonmag for posting it.

Given the dwindling reserves of crude oil left in the world, it could be argued that the most wasteful use for this limited resource is to simply burn it. We should be carefully preserving what’s left for the vital repertoire of valuable organic compounds it offers.

it’s not beyond the bounds of possibility that a progressing society could construct electrical generators and couple them to simple windmills and waterwheels, later progressing to wind turbines and hydroelectric dams.

The rest of the article revolves around a scenario where we do not have energy abundance. But, that’s not reality. We live in an energy-abundant (relative to us) universe. Our failure to harvest it, our failure to take advantage of the energy surrounding us allows us to rely on “ancient energy concentrates” like fossil fuels.

This is one of the reasons I’m not fussed on hybrid cars. I see them as the modern day equivalent of the “faster horse”. It’s a hand-aid when the solution is to amputate.

The biggest, and perhaps the only, opposition to electric vehicles I have heard from self-confessed petrol heads is that the whine made by electric cars doesn’t compare to the roar of a V8.


Maybe we should play the phut-phut sound of the first internal combustion engines and see hither that is music to their ears. We’ve grown up with the roar of engines, it’s going to take a while for people to rid themselves of that affectation.

The article is most correct in that the worst thing we can do with our oil is burn it. We also need to stop subsidising the production of fossil fuels and put that investment into our own energy security. A nation that is dependent on others for energy is not secure.

I’m not advocating for a second we return to an agrarian lifestyle. I like the Internet and travel – but there are better ways and it’s not always cutting edge science that can deliver for us.

So can we rebuild our modern society in an energy-secure fashion, relying on sustainable fuels and renewable energy? Of course we can; but more importantly, it is necessary that we must.

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