“We Need a Plan for the Transition to Renewable Energy”

Yves here. I give the authors of this post credit. This site has criticized many of the proponents of the Green New Deal and other renewable energy/energy transition proponents to sell poorly thought out, atomistic programs that rely heavily on the notion that the answer lies in better shopping plus incentives. So we get a big electronic vehicle push, with prices a deterrent to many drivers, (at least initially) incompatible EV stations, and no attention to the conundrum that remotely populated areas would do better with hybrids. Oh, and we haven’t gotten to the big fly in the ointment, that EV uptake to the desired degree would overload American electrical grids….and there’s no national or even regional initiative to address that.

This article usefully parses the renewable energy programs into ones that are easy, harder, and very hard and estimates how much they would reduce current consumption levels. But even with this clear division, there are still questions about viability. For instance, the authors classify as easy moving more food consumption to local, organic food. This notion is disconnected from consumer realities. First, organic food in the US is generally priced at a minimum of a 20% premium to mass market food, even though its production cost is only modestly higher than its Big Ag competition. Second, local organic food will be less processed. You might have pickles and sauces and pastas and breads, but many of these foods will take preparation, which many time poor (along with money poor) households will find it difficult to shift their patterns.

Nevertheless, this article does a good job of making a serious stab at this problem and covering many of the key issues in a compact space.

By David Fridley, a retired staff scientist and an affiliate of the Energy Technologies Area at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, as well as an advisor at Post Carbon Institute and Richard Heinberg, a senior fellow at Post Carbon Institute and the author of Power: Limits and Prospects for Human Survival, co-author, with David Fridley, of Our Renewable Future and a contributor to the Observatory. Adapted from Our Renewable Future © 2016 by Post Carbon Institute and is licensed under Creative Commons CC BY-NC-ND 4.0 by permission of Island Press. Adapted and produced by Earth | Food | Life, a project of the Independent Media Institute.

The transition to renewable energy is inevitable given the current climate crisis and the fact that fossil fuels are a finite resource. To make the shift, a detailed plan is required to indicate the first steps and anticipate challenges in allocating resources and the policies needed to achieve the outcome. Germany has arguably accomplished more toward the transition to renewable energy than any other nation, largely because it has such a plan—the “Energiewende,” which seeks a 60 percent reduction in all fossil fuel use by 2050 and a 50 percent reduction in primary energy use through efficiency in power generation, especially for buildings and the transport sector.

What follows are some components of a basic plan that can be adapted according to each country or state and adjusted for contingencies.

Level One: The ‘Easy’ Stuff

The easiest way to kick-start the transition is to switch to solar and wind power for electricity generation by building lots of panels and turbines, respectively, while phasing out coal. Distributing generation and storage of these energy sources (rooftop solar panels with home- or office-scale battery packs) will help. Replacing natural gas will be harder because gas-fired “peaking” plants are often used to buffer the intermittency of industrial-scale wind and solar inputs to the grid.

Electricity accounted for less than a quarter of all final energy used in the United States in 2022. Since solar, wind, hydro, and geothermal produce electricity, it makes sense to electrify even more of our energy usage—heating and cooling buildings with electric air-source heat pumps and cooking with electric induction stoves, for example.

Transportation represents a large swath of energy consumption, mostly due to the growing number of personal cars. As of 2021, there were 250 million gasoline-fueled automobiles. While we are busy replacing these with electric vehicles, we can easily and cheaply promote walking, bicycling, and public transit.

Substantial retrofitting is needed for energy efficiency. Building codes should be strengthened to mandate net-zero or near-net-zero energy performance for new construction. Zoning codes and development policies should encourage infill development, multifamily buildings, and clustered mixed-use development. Using more energy-efficient appliances will also help.

The food system is a significant energy consumer. Increasing the market share of organic local foods can dramatically lower the amount of fossil fuels used to manufacture fertilizers as well as in food processing, and in transportation. We can also sequester enormous amounts of atmospheric carbon in topsoil by promoting farming and land management practices that build soil rather than deplete it.

By our calculations, these actions could reduce carbon emissions by 40 percent in 10 to 20 years.

Level Two: The Harder Stuff

Solar and wind technologies provide energy intermittently. When they become dominant, we must adapt to this with substantial amounts of grid-level energy storage and a major grid overhaul to get the electricity sector to 80 percent renewables. We’ll also need to time our energy usage to coincide with sunlight and wind energy availability.

The transport sector will require extensive and costly restructuring. Densified cities and suburbs can be reoriented to public transit, bicycling, and walking. All motorized human transport can be electric, with more public transit and intercity passenger rail links. Heavy trucks could run on fuel cells, but it would be better to minimize trucking by expanding freight rail. Sails would increase the fuel efficiency of shipping, but relocalization or deglobalization of manufacturing would be a necessary co-strategy to reduce the need for shipping.

Although much of the manufacturing sector runs on electricity, many raw materials used during the manufacturing processes either are fossil fuels or require fossil fuels for mining or transformation. By replacing fossil fuel-based materials and by increasing the recycling of nonrenewable materials, we can reduce dependency on mining.

If we do all this and build far more solar panels and wind turbines, we could, by our calculations, achieve roughly an 80 percent reduction in emissions.

Level Three: The Really Hard Stuff

Eliminating the last 20 percent of our current fossil fuel consumption will take even more time, research, investment, and behavioral adaptation. One example is that we currently use enormous amounts of cement in construction with concrete. Cement-making needs high heat, which could theoretically be supplied by sunlight, electricity, or hydrogen—but only with a complete redesign of the process.

This is the time to make all food production organic and to ensure that agriculture builds topsoil. Eliminating all fossil fuels will entail redesigning food systems to minimize processing, packaging, and transport.

The communications sector—which uses mining and high-heat processes to produce phones, computers, servers, wires, photo-optic cables, cell towers, and more—presents a challenge. The only good long-term solution here is to make devices that last and then repair, fully recycle, and remanufacture them only when absolutely needed. The internet could be maintained via low-tech, asynchronous networks now being pioneered in poor nations, using relatively little power.

In the transport sector, scrapping petroleum will require costly substitutes (fuel cells or biofuels). Global trade will inevitably shrink. With no ready substitute for aviation fuels, we may have to relegate aviation to a specialty transport mode. Planes running on hydrogen or biofuels are an expensive possibility, as are dirigibles filled with (nonrenewable) helium.

On land, paving and repairing roads without oil-based asphalt is possible, though it will require a complete redesign of processes and equipment.

If we can do all this, we can get beyond zero carbon emissions; with carbon sequestration in soils and forests, we could reduce atmospheric carbon each year.

Scale Is the Biggest Challenge

It is possible to design a renewable energy system that 1) has minimal environmental impacts, 2) is reliable, and 3) is affordable—as long as relatively modest amounts of energy are needed. Once current U.S. scales of energy production and usage are assumed, something has to give.

We sacrifice the environment (due to the vast tracts of land needed for siting wind turbines and solar panels) for the purposes of reliability (because solar and wind are intermittent) and affordability (because of the need for storage or capacity redundancy).

Power is another hurdle: massive ships and airplanes require energy-dense fuels. Renewable energy resources can supply the needed power, but scale is crucial. While building and operating a few hydrogen-powered airplanes for specialized purposes would be technically feasible, operating fleets of thousands of commercial planes with hydrogen fuel is daunting from both a technical and economic perspective.

It’s Not All About Solar and Wind

Solar and wind are the favored energy sources of the future; equipment prices are falling, the rate of installation continues to be high, and there is considerable potential for further growth. However, their inherent intermittency will pose increasing challenges as they become more dominant. Other renewable energy sources—hydropower, geothermal, and biomass—can more readily supply controllable baseload power, but these sources have much less opportunity for growth owing to limits on siting, geology, and supply.

Hopes for high levels of wind and solar energy supply are driven mainly by the assumption that industrial societies can and should maintain very high levels of energy use. The challenge is always scale: If energy usage in the United States could be scaled back significantly (70 to 90 percent), then a reliable all-renewable energy regime would become much easier to envision and cheaper to engineer.

We Must Adapt to Less Energy

Considering the speed and scale of emission reductions required to avert climate catastrophe, people in industrialized countries will have less energy than they are used to consuming.

Despite our understandable wish to maintain current levels of comfort and convenience, it’s worth keeping an ecological footprint analysis in mind.

According to calculations by the Global Footprint Network, the productive land and water available to each person on Earth to live sustainably in 2019 was 1.6 global hectares. Meanwhile, the per capita ecological footprint of the United States was 8.1 global hectares per capita in 2018 (if the entire world population lived at this footprint, it would require five planet Earths).

Clearly, we should aim for a sustainable energy and material consumption level, which, on average, is significantly lower than at present. If we don’t achieve this, we will eventually be caught short, with significant economic and political fallout.

What should we do to prepare for energy reduction? Look to California as a model: Since the 1970s, its economy has grown while its per capita electricity demand has not. The state has encouraged cooperation between research institutions, manufacturers, utilities, and regulators to determine how to keep demand from growing by changing how electricity is used.

Consumerism Is a Problem, Not a Solution

Conservation beats consumption in the dawning post-fossil fuel era. If it becomes more difficult and costly to produce and distribute goods, people will have to use them longer and repurpose, remanufacture, and recycle them wherever possible. The switch from consumerism to conservation will transform America’s culture, economy, and government policy.

The renewable economy will likely be slower and more local. Economic growth may reverse itself as per capita consumption shrinks. If we are to avert a financial crash, we may need a different economic organizing principle. In her 2014 book on climate change, This Changes Everything, Naomi Klein asks whether capitalism can be preserved in the era of climate change. Although it probably can, in the absence of overall growth, profits for a few will have to come at a cost to everyone else, a situation we have seen in the years since the financial crash of 2008.

Population Growth Makes Everything Harder

Population is a climate and energy issue. If energy and materials are likely to dwindle in the decades ahead, population growth will mean even less consumption per capita. On a net basis (births minus deaths), we are gaining 83 million humans each year—according to a 2017 UN report—an unprecedented number, even if the percentage rate of growth is slowing.

Policymakers can help reduce the population by promoting family planning, public persuasion, raising the educational level of poor women, and giving women complete control over their reproductive rights. (For detailed recommendations, consult population organizations such as Population Institute and Population Media Center.)

Fossil Fuels Are Too Valuable to Allocate Solely Based on Market Forces

For non-energy purposes, industrial societies will need fossil fuels for some applications until the final stages of the energy transition—and possibly beyond. Crucially, we need fossil fuels for industrial processes and transportation to build and install renewable energy systems. We also need them for agriculture, manufacturing, and general transportation until robust renewable energy–based technologies are available. This poses several problems.

As the best of our remaining fossil fuels are depleted, we extract and burn ever lower grade and harder to get coal, oil, and natural gas. Virtually all new production prospects involve tight oil, tar sands, ultraheavy oil, deepwater oil, or Arctic oil—all of which entail high production costs and high environmental risk compared to conventional oil found and produced during the 20th century.

Refining heavier, dirtier fuels (in the case of tar sands) creates ever more co-pollutants, with disproportionate health impacts and burden on low-income communities. The fact that the fossil fuel industry will require ever increasing levels of investment per unit of energy yielded has gloomy implications for the energy transition: the deteriorating fossil fuel sector will need a large chunk of society’s available capital to maintain current services, just as the build-out of renewables will require even more capital.

The danger is that fossil fuels will become so costly we’ll no longer be able to afford the transition project.

But we cannot accelerate the transition too much. Rushing the transition will mean an overall increase in emissions—unless we reduce other current uses of fossil fuels. To fuel the transition without increasing overall greenhouse gas emissions, we may have to deprive some sectors of the economy of fossil fuels before adequate renewable substitutes are available. This would mean reducing overall energy consumption and the economic benefits of energy use while taking care to minimize the impact on already vulnerable and economically disadvantaged communities.

We are entering a period of fossil fuel triage. Rather than allocating fossil fuels simply on a market basis (those who pay for them get them), it would be fairer to find ways to allocate fuels based on the strategic importance of the societal sectors dependent on them and on the relative ease and timeliness of transitioning these sectors to renewable substitutes.

Agriculture, for example, might be deemed the highest priority for continued fossil fuel allocations, with commercial air travel assuming a far lower priority. Perhaps we need not have just one price on carbon but different prices for different uses. Not only do we see scant discussion of this prospect in energy policy literature, but few governments even acknowledge the need for a carbon budget. The political center of gravity, particularly in the United States, will have to shift significantly before decision-makers can acknowledge the need for fossil fuel triage.

As fossil fuels become more costly to extract, there may be an ever greater temptation to use our available energy and investment capital merely to maintain existing consumption patterns, putting off any effort to effect the transition. If we procrastinate too much, we will reap the worst possible outcomes—climate chaos, a gutted economy, and no way to build a bridge to a renewable energy future.

Everything Is Connected

Throughout the energy transition, great attention will have to be given to the interdependent linkages and supply chains connecting various sectors (communications, mining, and transport knit together most of what we do in industrial societies). Some links in supply chains will be hard to substitute, and chains can be brittle: a problem with even one link can imperil the entire chain.

Consider, for example, the materials required to manufacture and operate a wind turbine. The components come from different manufacturing sectors in various places in the world.

Planning will need to take such interdependencies into account. As every ecologist knows, you can’t do just one thing.

This Really Changes Everything

Energy transitions change societies from bottom to top and from inside out. From a public relations standpoint, it may be helpful to give politicians or the public the impression that life will go on as before while we unplug coal power plants and plug-in solar panels. Still, the reality will probably be quite different.

During historic energy transitions, economies and political systems underwent profound metamorphoses. The agricultural revolution and the fossil-fueled industrial revolution constituted societal watersheds. We are on the cusp of a transformation that is every bit as decisive.

If the renewable energy transition is successful, we will achieve savings in ongoing energy expenditures needed for each increment of economic production, and we may be rewarded with a quality of life that is actually preferable to our current one.

We will enjoy a much more stable climate and greatly reduced health and environmental impacts from energy production activities. However, converting to 100 percent renewable energy will not solve other environmental issues such as deforestation, land degradation, and species extinctions.

Possibly, the most challenging aspect of this transition is its implication for economic growth. Whereas the cheap, abundant energy of fossil fuels enabled the development of a consumption-oriented growth economy, renewable energy will likely be unable to sustain such an economy.

Rather than planning for continued, unending expansion, policymakers must begin to imagine what a functional post-growth economy could look like. Among other things, the planned obsolescence of manufactured goods must end in favor of far more durable products that can be reused, repaired, remanufactured, or recycled indefinitely.

It seems wise to channel society’s efforts toward no-regrets strategies—efforts that shift expectations, emphasize quality of life over consumption, and reinforce community resilience. Even though it may be impossible to envision the end result of the renewable energy transition, we must seek to understand its scope and general direction.

Our descendants will inhabit a renewable world that works differently from ours. Whether it will be better or worse depends on our current decisions. The sooner we address the most obvious and pressing decisions (starting with a mandatory global cap on carbon emissions), the earlier we can anticipate the succeeding waves of problems and choices.

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  1. Es s Ce Tera

    For as long as I remember there’s been a contingent on the left which, whenever anyone poses population growth as a problem, accuses them of racism. “Why should developed countries be allowed to grow to abundance but developing countries must limit their populations?” is how the argument goes. Any proposed limitation of population growth is viewed as an attempt to limit non-white populations. And it’s a valid argument that should probably be addressed somehow if we’re wanting to be convincing about the population aspect.

    1. Felix_47

      It can be considered but In 1950 it was 33%, in 1985 it was 15%, now estimates range between 6–10%, in the future 3–5%, etc. And looking at my kid’s classmates in school confirms that percentage at least in Southern California.

    2. mrsyk

      Is that contingent only “on the left” and only because racism? Serious question. A proposed limitation of population could be viewed as a limitation on labor and consumers bringing into view the usual culprit, capital.

  2. Victor Sciamarelli

    I liked the article and I think an example of a successful transition now underway deserves a mention.
    The ordinary tungsten filament light bulb is extremely inefficient at producing light; it’s good, however, at producing heat. In contrast, there is the LED.
    Anyone old enough to remember the first LEDs, knows they were either red or green and, though easy to produce, their use was limited to consumer electronics like stereo equipment. The red and green LED was the actual color of the light produced, not the casing housing the LED. It took decades of research by a dedicated engineer, Shuji Nakamura, to create the blue LED which, combined with red and green, produced white light.
    In 2010, LEDs accounted for 1% of light sales. In 2022, it was more than 50%. It is estimated by 2035 all lights will be LEDs. Lighting accounts for 5% of all carbon emissions. A full switch to LEDs saves about 1.4 billion tons of CO2 each year which is the equivalent of taking half the cars in the world off the road. This is according to Veritasium, “Why It Was Almost Impossible To Make The Blue LED” and the numbers begin at 28:45 m: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AF8d72mA41M
    Whether transitioning to EVs or organic food, there will be problems, and problems should be faced by solving them. Besides, no matter how difficult, nothing will be a more difficult than a climate catastrophe.

    1. ISL

      But here is the real question, did the amount of lighting (globally) increase as the cost went down? So far experience to date is that as costs decrease due to efficiency, clever people discover new usages for the now cheaper energy, and use more.

      As to California, where I live, I suspect much of the “energy economy decoupling” is the offshoring of energy production to texas and over seas, manufacturing to China and transformation into a services economy.

      Also, neo-liberalism, where economic growth accrues only to the 1% is an effective decoupling strategy – at least until folk with pitchfork arrive. Here, increases in efficiency are counter productive as it allows the working poor to use excessive energy – clearly BAD (/#snark) for the environment.

      One needs only look at the Guillets Jaune in France to see how these policies are implemented in the real world. Fossil fuel powered mega-mansions for the tech aristocracy and crowded underfunded mass transit and electricity power failures for the poor. And then the ivory tower types wonder why the lumpen masses argue climate change is a conspiracy to screw them over.

      Not a word in the article about equitable transition.


      See: https://energyforgrowth.org/article/how-does-energy-impact-economic-growth-an-overview-of-the-evidence/#:~:text=The%20positive%20relationship%20between%20energy,period%20for%20which%20data%20exists.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        You’re right, as was Yves’ counter to the “local and organic” recommendation.

        But I thought the author did well at covering a crucial first step: what would a world that didn’t burn up the planet actually look like. Here he brings the numbers to bear along with a realistic appraisal of current and short term future technology, and lays out how:

        1) commercial aviation is gone;
        2) international trade will shrink dramatically;
        3) we can’t keep being a throw-away society–things must be built to last because we can’t make as much “stuff;”
        4) per capita energy usage must come down.

        These are the truths that are consistently avoided by Green New Dealers and lefties like those at Jacobin. It’s not that Degrowthers want to immiserate everyone. It’s that the life regarded as “middle class” in the USA in particular just consumes too much in resources and emits too much pollution if everyone were to live that way–and in this place and time, it is no longer defensible to argue that people in the rich countries get to enjoy their profligacy at the expense of the poor countries.

        Life does not have to be about “the one who dies with most toys wins.” That’s a warped view of the universe and human existence that has been implanted in our noggins by an already powerful brainwashing machine that has only grown more sophisticated and all-penetrating over the last century. Part of this process is to confront reality as this post helps us do, but part of it will require a re-orientation of our values from what the Madman have implanted in us.

        Will living within the confines of what our biosphere can provide be a big change, painful in many ways? Yep. Will it be much better if we approach it as a problem we must solve together and in fairness to all rather than survival of the fittest? You betcha.

        1. Paris

          Commercial aviation is gone but Al Gore and the forever angry teenager Greta get to fly on private jets to tell the pitchfork crowds how to live their lives lol. Yeah.

      2. heresy101

        During the era of the introduction of LEDs, our small municipal electric utility had a 50 GWh drop (a 12% total reduction) in usage due to LEDs and standards for energy reduction in new appliances (especially refrigerators) while the 75,000 population grew modestly.

      3. juno mas

        Yes, this is the conundrum. In my city street lights have been converted from HPSodium to LED. But the light ‘color’ of LED creates a striking glare and homeowners complain because the same street light luminair does not focus the LED light onto the street, but allows it to escape into adjacent home windows. The street lighting engineers want more light (of any color) for less electricity consumption, without considering general lighting impacts.

      4. Revenant

        The heating effect of incandescent lamps has to be replaced with other heat. Is there really any saving?

        Moreover, LED lamps generate heat in the driver electronics, which shortens the life of the lamps if not the LEDs themselves. LED lamps cost 10-20x their incandescent forerunner but it is not clear that they last 10-20x longer because crucial driver electronics burn out.

        What the EU incandescent lamps bans certainly achieved was the scrapping (or possibly BRICS export-only orientation) of long amortised production lines of incandescent lamps, rewarding the companies that had invested in LED factories and LED lobbying with high margins and reduced competition….

        Turning to the article, it repeats the fairytale of growth without energy, citing California’s decreasing energy intensity of GDP. This is because California outsourced energy intensive industries first to the US Sunbelt and then to Mexico and finally to China. I am sure that including the energy intensity of its imports and its profits would reverse this picture. Obviously, we cannot pursue this energy-free growth globally!

      5. upstater

        The Texas grid has little export capacity. California electricity imports come from the PNW and mountain states. You are absolutely right about deindustrialization as the cause of flat per capita demand.

        A TVA executive once told me that if each of their 7.5 million customers installed one LED bulb to replace an incandescent, it cuts revenue by $75 million a year. Like with residential PV, the industry often views conservation as a threat to BAU.

        1. CA

          Electricity transmission of over 1,300 miles, with minimal loss of power:


          December 30, 2022

          Major Chinese power transmission project now fully operational

          BEIJING/CHENGDU — China has put into full operation a major domestic power transmission project that sends electricity from the resource-rich west of the country to energy-consuming regions in the east.

          The construction of the Baihetan-Zhejiang 800-kilovolt ultra-high-voltage (UHV) direct current power transmission project was completed on Friday and it has already started operating, according to the State Grid Corporation of China (State Grid).

          The clean electricity generated in Baihetan, the country’s second-largest hydropower station, will be sent from the southwestern province of Sichuan to the eastern Zhejiang Province through a transmission line stretching 2,121 kilometers.

          A similar project that transmits power from Baihetan to Jiangsu Province in the east was put into use in July….

          1. upstater

            Like pump storage, DC transmission in the US saw major projects in the 70s and 80s, but no projects on line since. One new project in New York is under development. Per wiki, “The Champlain Hudson Power Express is a planned high-voltage direct current underwater and underground power cable project linking the Quebec area to the New York City”

            I should mention Blackstone is the developer, not NYPA. It is rentier toll road, par excellence!

            1. CA

              Remember that a pumped storage system is in a sense a battery or uses excess energy from any active source to create potential energy, but the potential energy on conversion must be transmitted to a source that may be a thousand miles away. So, ultra-high voltage transmission lines are best used to protect against a loss of energy in transmission.

          2. Phenix

            I would not call that clean energy. I am not in favor or large hydro projects due to the environmental damage.

            I would be interested in what happens when China connects the large solar farms that just came online.

            1. CA

              “I am not in favor of large hydro projects due to the environmental damage.

              “I would be interested in what happens when China connects the large solar farms that just came online.”

              [ The need is to avoid environmental damage from hydro projects and that typically involves many steps, from designing a project to avoid periodic flooding, to directing water flow to water conservancy projects such as reservoirs and irrigation works. China is spending over $150 billion in water conservancy projects yearly, with a long term objective.

              There must be fish ladders, breeding pools, fish and bird population protection, plant protection, ship ladders, clean ship locomotion, sewage treatment everywhere…on and on…

              China shut down the entire Yangtze to fishing for 10 years beginning in 2021. This means patrolling…

              The process is complex indeed, but clean energy can and should be the result. ]

    2. Michael Fiorillo

      They’ll get my incandescent light bulbs when they pry them from my cold, dead hands! … ;-)

    3. Pookah Harvey

      LED light bulbs are a great idea but every solution that the oligarchs come up with results in inefficiencies. The LED light bulb usually consists of 6 LEDs. The problem is that they are all wired in series, when 1 LED fails the bulb goes out and needs to be replaced. Simply wiring the LEDs in parallel would have increased the useful life expectancy tremendously. Secondly the LEDs are tightly encased increasing the heat environment and therefore decreasing the life expectancy of the individual LEDs. The more often you have to replace bulbs the more energy goes into production which increases the overall energy footprint for the product. ( Youtube has multiple video of people repairing bulbs)
      The backlight in LED TVs is the same. When one LED goes the screen turns black rather than just one area dimming.
      Why the inefficiencies? Profits. profits and more profits.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Your comment is very helpful to me. Besides the problems with LED serial connection and the heat accumulation inside the bulbs I wonder about the reliability of the power supply electronics in the base of the bulb. I would expect most failures would occur there. LEDs mounted in screw in ‘bulbs’ with a different encapsulation [?] would seem an ideal way to make use of the direct current from solar charged batteries.

        These little issues with LEDs seem to echo the issues with the way commercial incandescent bulbs have none of the multi-decade longevity that light bulbs with the earlier thicker tungsten wire have demonstrated.

  3. AG

    Yves in the intro:

    “First, organic food in the US is generally priced at a minimum of a 20% premium to mass market food, even though its production cost is only modestly higher than its Big Ag competition.”

    I didn´t know of that near-equivalence.
    That sounds a bit like fraud.
    (Any cool data sources I could dive into?)

    In Germany of course the biggest organic-food chain “BASIC” which has now a major recession became infamous for pretty bad working conditions, anti-union policy and bad wages. (I call it the SiliconValley-syndrom.)

    Where do those 20% premium end exactly?

    p.s. I just got message from my tea delivery company in Hamburg that prices will increase due to higher wages of 15-20% for tea-leave pickers of Darjeeling introduced by India´s government.

    Wages make for 20% of the price of my product that I receive from said Hamburg company.

    Increase in wages I salute (in how far I am able to follow as a costumer is another matter.)
    But if the above 20% premium are for cooler advertising it´s criminal.

    If for higher wages for the employees of the organic food store that again is something sensible within the limits of so-called market place.

    1. Paris

      If you’ve been to a supermarket in America you’d know she’s not inventing numbers. I’d like to add the fact that Texas alone is the size of the France. Comparing the US, continental in size, to Germany is just pathetic.

      1. dave -- just dave

        This joke was a success at the high school lunch table in the early 1960s: when Lyndon Johnson was president, he and Charles de Gaulle were talking and LBJ was trying to impress on him the size of Texas. Finally he said, “Look at it this way – yew kin git on a train on Monday in Texas, and on Friday yew’ll still be in Texas.” De Gaulle replied, “Oui, monsieur president, je comprends finalement – we have also in France zhe slow train!”

  4. The Rev Kev

    ‘Germany has arguably accomplished more toward the transition to renewable energy than any other nation, largely because it has such a plan—the “Energiewende,” which seeks a 60 percent reduction in all fossil fuel use by 2050 and a 50 percent reduction in primary energy use through efficiency in power generation, especially for buildings and the transport sector.’

    And with that the entire article becomes suspect. Germany destroyed relations with the country that it was getting cheap energy from, let old Joe blow up the NS2 pipelines to kill the idea of getting any more and then shut down their nuke plants with no alternative energy sources line up to replace them. It’s like a revival of the Morgenthau Plan except that they get to keep their arms industry. Now Germany is being deindustrilised and centuries-old firms are abandoning the country. So yeah, I guess that you can say that they are using less energy.

    Lots of assumptions in this article and somehow ‘we sacrifice the environment’ seems kinda against the point of these policies. So how does this all play out in practice. From what I have seen, the big corporations will get all the subsidies and investments while the little guy will be forced to pay for all the changes on an individual level, whether he can afford to or not. The lazy idea is to keep on dropping taxes on the little guy to force him to change his environmental behaviour while totally not recognizing that they may not have a choice. Forcing everybody to abandon their internal combustion engine cars with electric vehicles sounds like a great idea – unless you live in the country where it would never work.

    Telling people that they have to upgrade their 100 year old house to 21st century environmental standards also sounds like a logical idea – unless you are scrimping just to pay your local property taxes. But the truth of the matter is that no matter how much we may want a growth economy, the only way forward is a contracting economy. We have had a helluva ride with a continuous growth economy the past few centuries but now it is over. I hope that we enjoyed the ride.

    1. Grumpy Engineer

      Indeed. When Germany gets trotted out as an “example”, I can’t help but think that it’s more of a counter-example. Or perhaps it’s an example of how to commit national economic suicide. If the Energiewende were truly a success, we wouldn’t be seeing the words “recession” and “energy crisis” with such alarming regularity in headlines about Germany.

      Nor would we see coal making a comeback in Germany: https://www.reuters.com/markets/commodities/energy-crisis-fuels-coal-comeback-germany-2022-12-16/.

  5. ilsm

    Engineering (engineer searched shows 4 times. 3 in comments) is hard!

    System engineering is several orders of magnitude harder because you have to understand complex interchanges between diverse components of the “system”.

    I spend very little time on climate response because most of it is selling something w/o concern for the “system”.

    1. Joe Chaisson


      Stewart Brand in his book “Whole Earth Discipline” made the observation that climate advocacy has been driven by romanticists when we actually needed engineers to address the challenge.

      Fortunately, as I have commented before, a truly transformative technology is emerging that dramatically changes “the climate action story”. And as I have commented before, NASA and the University of Florida’s nuclear engineering program applied to the DOE for funding to develop this technology in the early 1980’s, but were not funded.

      The good news is that fully demonstrating this technology will not be expensive and then developer is working on a collaborative demonstration Project Plan with a major National Energy Lab that can apply this technology to solve what to date have been intractable Lab missions.

      If all goes well, this technology could be fully demonstrated and producing initial zero carbon electricity and process heat (at very low cost) within about six years.

      Stay tuned!

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        You did not mention any particulars about what wonder technology you have in mind — evidently something nuclear related from the early 1980s. Would you please be a little more specific?

        1. Jospeh Chaisson

          It is gaseous nuclear fuel fission in an internal combustion engine format. Gaseous nuclear fuel fission power was initially developed in the Soviet Union in the early 1950s. NASA (working with the University of Florida nuclear engineering program) funded substantial gaseous fission R&D (including several reactors) at Los Alamos Nation Lab as part of the Lunar River program. UFl awarded a Phd on this exact concept in 1976 and as I think I noted, NASA and UFl submitted a proposal to develop this technology to DOE shortly after DOE was established – but DOE did not fund the proposal. FYI, DOE’s first report (DOE 1) was a survey of six alternative civil nuclear power technologies and ranked them by safety and proliferation risk. The report ranked gaseous fuel fission as the safest and most proliferation resistant, but the report assumed the initial Soviet technology approach, which had quite expensive civil works.

          I am generally finding that nuclear physicists trained since about 1980 have no knowledge of gaseous fuel fission – probably as the global nuclear industry has focused on solid fuel fission from the beginning.

          One example is when I asked nuclear engineer (U Fl nuclear engineering degree) I had some working connections (with a long term industry career) if he knew what gaseous nuclear fuel was? He responded that he had no idea about what this is). I emailed him the UFl PhD thesis (Dugin) I mentioned above and he responded that Dugin was his masters thesis advisor!

          I there is interest in learning more about this truly transformative technology, I can post some useful web links.

          1. Jeremy Grimm

            YES! Please post some links to the technology you mentioned. I have never heard of it before. However I must confess considerable discomfort with the thought of gaseous fissionable materials. It conjures concerns about Radon gas in basements, the radioactive clouds leaving Chernobyl and their like.

            I am also curious about the origins of the nuclear power industry, particularly the report you cite:
            “DOE’s first report (DOE 1) was a survey of six alternative civil nuclear power technologies”.
            The nuclear power industry has strange beginnings and a most peculiar evolution that suggests political, economic, and strategic concerns obscured basic safety, simplicity, and reliability concerns in evaluating and developing nuclear energy. Everything nuclear related has acquired a peculiar odor. I have begun to wonder how much the fossil fuel industry may have worked to poison nuclear power as an option.

            1. Joseph Chaisson

              I will post a few useful links on this.

              The company developing this has some useful information as an introduction:


      2. steppenwolf fetchit

        Is this the nuclear technology approach favorably mentioned by James Hansen in the middle of his book Storms Of My Grandchildren?


          No. This is a technology that has been largely forgotten since at least the later 1970’s early 1980s.

          As I noted in another comment, gaseous nuclear power was initially demonstrated in the USSR in 1953 and the MUCH better “internal engine” concept was recognized, at least, by the mid-late 1970s – primarily with participants (LosAlamos Lab, U Florida nuclear engineering program, etc.) in NASA’s Lunar Rover program.

    2. Christopher Pratt

      When engineers start talking in terms of carbon rather than energy efficiency I will start to listen more closely. Energy efficient buildings, appliances and cars take a lot of carbon to make.
      We have been switching to more energy efficient things for the last 50 years and look where that has gotten us.

      1. jsn

        Yep, its all about the incentives and in a capitalist system the incentive is always to do more of whatever is making money.

        ilsm comment above about “concern for the “system”” needs to start with the one producing incentives, which I think is what he meant. Beneath that one, innumerable sub-systems will need attention too, but until that one’s addressed, any discussion of the others will turn out to be lip service once “the market” is done with it.

  6. Ignacio

    The newest EU directive on energy efficiency in buildings (just approved a few days ago if I am correct) tackles this and it for instance will force to add rooftop solar modules in any new building, though I don’t know how long will it take to enforce this measure in the building codes of all EU countries. There is also push for electrification of everything. Roof-top solar in residential fully electrified buildings (I mean collective residential buildings) may account for a noticeable but still insufficient share of electricity. Not now in a position to make an educated guess but if buildings are thought and designed for solar modules without interfering chimneys or other obstacles it will indeed be quite significant.

    1. Revenant

      UK building regulations require a proposed building to be compared to a model building assuming the same geometry and orientation but with deemed materials of high sustainability and with rooftop solar. The actual building has to perform better. In theory this forces high quality construction and sustainable technology adoption but in practice the sustainability requirement has been low enough to permit developers to continue erecting tarpaper shacks and slapping solar panels in top to compensate.

  7. John Steinbach

    While there is some recognition here of the reality of the abrupt end of easily accessible fossil fuels & other mineral resources, there is less apparent understanding of the hard limits imposed by AGW & other environmental constraints. They briefly acknowledge the danger of opportunity costs of the “transition to renewables” leading to an interim increase in fossil fuel usage. They also pay lip service to the need to end the consumerist economy and the need to reexamine the growth economy. Finally the gently raise the question of the compatibility of Capitalism with environmental sanity.

    While this paper is an improvement over most of the mainstream environmental movement analysis, it is still, IMO, largely an exercise in “hopium.”

  8. John9

    As Michael Hudson has said, planning under the neoliberal regime has been outsourced to the financial sector. That sector is only driven by quick profit. Managing energy decline requires thinking beyond quick profit. The term purpose driven, as mentioned by Brian Berletic of the New Atlas recently comes to mind.
    Government planning is anathema to many of the ideologs running Amrika. Not so for many in the rest of the world.
    Great excess followed by collapse is the Wall Street plan. Boom Bust is what they do best.

  9. ISL

    I agree a plan is needed, but this article is a laundry list of hopium not a plan. A real plan must acknowledge the real world we live in including costs and inertia and the developing world. Reads like a summary of a workshop.

    For example, if Nigeria fails to implement the transition as suggested, its population will cancel out the positive impacts of European degrowth (where energy use is decreasing) leading to global warming continuing unabated until Nature takes over. In such case, Europeans should have partied on the deck of the titanic. Instead they will probably vote in far far right governments that will start a war (history!) providing an opportunity to rebuild all that housing.

    As long as the authors are pie in the sky, why didn’t they mention free technology transfer (with subsidization) to the developing world? And how about energy efficiency of the military? My guess is that like fish in the ocean, they do not even realize they swim in the MICC waters (their audit shows foundation support).

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        Amish level technology? The Amish will fare better than many of us, but at least where I live the local Amish use many technologies that depend on fossil fuels. Steel tools require large amounts of energy. Making steel without fossil fuels is possible but could hardly continue at anywhere near present levels. I believe the machines the Amish around here use for cutting trees into planks and beams for building use diesel. I have a lot to learn about the Amish but as I understand their philosophy they are not opposed to technology per se. They regard each technology and weigh its costs and benefits to their way of life, their values, and their philosophy of the good life. Rather than a reversion to Amish level technology I believe the future might be closer to an 18th or 19th Century Amish level technology once the population of Humankind were reduced and trees or some other burnable plant material were more prolific near where people live [I like bamboo as a contender].

    1. heresy101

      Contrary to what the article says peaking power plants do not need to be run on natural gas and are being replaced by batteries (yes batteries). PG&E has replaced a couple of plants with batteries and several other peakers are/or have been replaced by batteries. Calpine proposed replacing their Redding plant five years ago but CAISO told them to wait a couple years. Batteries provide almost instantaneous power and and are cheap to operate because they can be charged during the midday solar peak when power is almost free.

      Another application of technology is the beginning of the transfer of fracking technology to geothermal energy development. Fervo and others are using horizontal drilling to create a geothermal energy plant in Beaver County Utah. The initial plant size is 400MW but can expand to 2GW. A sizable number of these horizontal wells (there are thousands for oil and gas) would provide a huge amount of baseload electricity. Diablo Nuclear Plant has 2.1GW and produces 8% of California’s electricity. Six of the horizontal wells would provide 50% of California’s electricity and a large amount of all US usage.

  10. Tom Pfotzer

    This article does a fairly good job. It says:

    a. A fundamental, major, redesign of core economic processes and functions is required. Ag, transport, energy, manufacturing sectors all need major redesigns

    b. There are interdependencies, so a coherent systems approach (ID major functions, define how they connect and interoperate, and incrementally modify high-impact functions in a manner that honors and supports the interdependencies)

    c. Living stds in the developed economies are going to fall during the transition. Resources need to be reallocated from consumption toward production-systems rebuilds

    All good. Those are the facts, and it’s a rare thing to see them spelled out so clearly in one document.

    The point above, made by Victor Sciamarelli, that technology plays a major role in the redesign, needs further emphasis.

    Almost all the incremental steps forward are going to need new products (like electric cars, LED lighting, high-scale energy storage, products design for long-term useful life and materials reclamation at end-of-life) and new processes – like the reclamation activity. That’s a very fundamental change to the linear once-and-done (dig up, use, then landfill) method we currently use for materials.

    As some commenters point out, there’s a lot of hopium here. The hopium is based on the hope that humans will act differently in the future than they do now.

    We’ll need to sacrifice our short-term comfort for long-term stability. We’ll need to do a great deal of changing at the individual level. Basically, we’ll have to evolve from short-term self-centered thinkers to long-term societal and environmental thinkers. We need to get way better at systems-thinking; we individuals have to be able to conceive of how the whole system functions, and to understand and accept our role, our individual responsibility, for making the whole system _work_.

    The architecture of the human brain isn’t generally well-suited to that task. We don’t generally have good abstract thinking capacity, and we’re not generally long-term thinkers, and we are fairly selfish, and excellent at deluding ourselves away from doing what’s necessary.

    It’ll take a lot of re-socializing to overcome those architectural limitations. And that socialization sure isn’t likely to come top-down. If it happens at all, it’ll happen bottom up.

    What’s that bottom-up evolution look like?

    a. Individual values changes like “it’s worth it to spend more on a product that fits into the long-term system .vs. one that continues to trash that long-term system.”. I value something different than I did yesterday. What’s important to me has …. changed.

    b. New products developed by the little people, adopted by the little people, that _implement_ the values of the little people. Walk your talk: build the product you want but isn’t available from the “market”.

    It comes down to what concrete, well-directed actions each of us decides to do.

    We’re going to have to change what we are in order to get out of this mess.

    Everyone’s standing around waiting for _somebody else_ to do what’s necessary.

    That isn’t going to work. That’s why we’re not making enough progress.

    1. renard

      “The architecture of the human brain isn’t generally well-suited to that task. We don’t generally have good abstract thinking capacity, and we’re not generally long-term thinkers, and we are fairly selfish, and excellent at deluding ourselves away from doing what’s necessary.”

      I’d propose that a lot of this is modern western minds and thinking – sort of an excess individualism based on liberal utilitarianism. In another post you mentioned that the Chinese might be better suited to do this transition. I’d agree, but not for their alleged authoritarianism but due to a cultural inclination “to long-term societal and environmental” thinking. That’s another reason why we need mulipolarity – we need multiple cultural influences instead of a dominating and ‘hegemonial’ western model on how to run the world.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        I must strongly disagree with your characterization of Human Nature which sounds all too similar to echoes of Hobbes and modern Neoliberal characterizations of economic man. Humankind can and has adapted to much more radical changes than we face in our future. The faults lie not with Humankind so much as they lie within the Nature of our Elites and the Corporate Persons they serve but no longer control.

        1. Tom Pfotzer

          Sorry Jeremy, I respect your intellect and your intentions, but I fully disagree with your point.

          I have been in the business and political world for decades at the Federal and local level, and I have seen this inertia, fear of change, selfishness, short-term thinking at almost every instance when change is attempted. No corporate overlords were present when these decisions (to do nothing, to avoid risk, to meet current personal needs instead of longer-term societal needs) got made.

          It is not (just) top-down. People are willing to recycle plastic bags, but they’re not willing to insulate their house (costs money!) or reduce air travel (and not see the Orangutans?!).

          The Corporate Overlords are just average folks with an extra dollop of greed and (in some cases) sociopathy.

          It’s rampant, all stripes, all socie-econ levels.

          1. Jeremy Grimm

            I agree with your point that most people do not like change and tend to avoid novelty. I believe I have in the past made that argument to explain why no one seems to want to hear about climate change.

            Most people do not want to hear about climate change and avoid thinking about it. On the other hand consider what people do when they must or feel they must as during a time of war, or famine, or disaster. The difference is in the immediacy of the threat and it possible outcomes. Climate change is an extreme slow moving train wreck. Another difference is the shared sacrifice of the moment. Yet another difference is the complexity of climate change and what I believe is a poverty of how it has been explained. People need some understanding of a threat to make the sacrifices required. I believe these differences in the threats of climate change place greater burden and blame on those who lead Humankind.

            Our Imperial leadership has lead us to the edge of crisis. The threats of climate change were reasonably well known by 1979 when the Jule Charney’s “Ad Hoc Study Group on Carbon Dioxide and Climate made its report”. The potential changes and remedies possible at that time were far less drastic than the changes and adaptations we face in the third decade of the 21st century. Climate change threatened profits and required changes to the way public funds were spent. Instead of building highways we should have been repairing existing highways and building mass transit. Instead of dismantling domestic industry and shipping it far far away we should have been strengthening domestic industry and helping other nations build their domestic industry and domestic agriculture. Instead of crafting world-wide chains of fragile single-point-of-failure supply lines we should have protected the large number of small and medium sized domestic producers that grew around our major industries. But there is one feature of these claims that jumps out — the usage ‘we’. That ‘we’ does not describe large action resulting from ad hoc uncoordinated actions by mass individuals. Anytime individuals did attempt mass action ‘we’ harried and co-opted the leaders of those actions and scattered their followers back into faceless masses.

            I like to believe the ‘we’ who lead us to this brink are not characteristic of Humankind or of the Nature of humans. Humankind has survived and adapted to climate change in its past and will again. I believe Humankind deserves a better class of leadership.

          2. Jeremy Grimm

            Tom Pfotzer, I respect your intellect and your intentions. I would not bother to argue with you otherwise. I believe argument exposes Truth and helps clarify what I believe and expands what I Know and broadens what I contemplate in making my comments. Much as I appreciate your compliment and hope I have shared it back in some modest return, I feel it is unnecessary. I appreciate the great generosity and politeness of Colonel Smithers comments. I apologize that my comments so blatantly omit the niceties you both practice. I like to believe such mutual respect is innate between commenters due to the exceptionally fine moderation of comments to this site. I also like to keep my comments a little bit pointy and jagged and a little bit incomplete to elicit responses.

        2. renard

          Are you sure you wanted to reply to me…? For the first part of your comment mirrors exactly my point that it’s not Human Nature as such but just – to take the title of Marshall Sahlins’ great little pamphlet on this – “The Western Illusion of Human Nature”. Those ‘echoes’ however – and here I am with Tom’s earlier reply – resound in all of us in the western world, even if we struggle to make our way out of it.

          1. Jeremy Grimm

            Sorry. I think you are correct that I should have placed my comment higher up in the thread. I was hesitant to attempt addressing every one of the many points in Tom Pfotzer’s initiating comment. I already tend to be unhappily prolix in my writing.

            However, “excess individualism based on liberal utilitarianism” conjures for me, the projection of Neoliberal values into the minds of individuals in our Imperial Society. I believe “…long-term societal and environmental thinking…” have been relentlessly persecuted by our Elites.

  11. Lefty Godot

    Just to pick this one statement as an example from the text:

    Distributing generation and storage of these energy sources (rooftop solar panels with home- or office-scale battery packs) will help.

    Who pays for this? How much building rewiring would be needed? Do such home- and office-scale battery packs exist in volume, and with sufficient reliability that homeowners and small business owners can count on them working for predictable spans of time without frequent costly repair or replacement needed? How much of this apparatus requires rare elements that may have to be imported from less than friendly nations? I have so many questions just looking at this one and yet the author is classifying this as part of the “easy” steps.

    1. heresy101

      All new housing in California must have solar that meets their annual needs built on the house. Batteries will likely be added to that mandate if not already implemented.

      Given PG&E’s outrageous electricity prices and declining solar and battery prices, it makes sense to install solar and storage. Credit unions should get on the bandwagon and finance solar installation at affordable rates.

      1. Jeremy Grimm

        How well do rooftop solar panels handle hail like the storms of the present and future might produce? How long do solar panels last and how well are they recycled? How renewable is solar energy if there were no fossil fuel power? Each solar panel represents substantial amounts of energy used in producing the materials from which they are constructed.

        I suppose the Neoliberal rapacity of u.s. utility companies like PG&E might foster roof-top solar panels [and batteries] for direct current applications local to the homes where they are mounted. That might save some money and assure minimal electricity for lighting and some other applications in the home. I doubt running the AC or heat pump would be among those applications.

  12. Vicky Cookies

    “The transition to renewable energy is inevitable given the current climate crisis and the fact that fossil fuels are a finite resource.” I disagree. The article could’ve employed a better lead-in than this. An energy transition is not inevitable; that fossil fuels are limited does not mean human society will switch to a new source; we seem likelier to destroy ourselves. Inertia is an underappreciated force in human affairs.

    Many of the examples of necessary actions would involve the government telling industry what to do, which, good luck. Building codes need to be updated, sure, but in this country, landlords throw tantrums and remove politicians from office for the merest suggestion of such insolence.

    It is not a pleasant topic.

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      “Inertia is an underappreciated force in human affairs.”

      Yes, indeed. Humans are going to have evolve a great deal, in a very short amount of time, to get out of this box.

      A while back I heard an interview of Angela Duckworth, who is a psychology professor at the University of Pennsylvania. She said “what we need is a psychology revolution”. She was making the point that the thing that’s most holding us back is … the way we think. As a species, and as individuals.

      And we have an enormous momentum of ingrained, genetically-based thinking methods. The problems we face are going to _cost_ each of us something, maybe a lot, to deal with.

      The inertia you speak of, Vicky Cookies, isn’t just societal or cultural inertia. It’s also 8 billion people whose brains are not adapted to handling the type of situation we’re in.

      This might be why autocratic societies just might have a better chance of dealing with the situation we’re in.

      We’re going to have to do costly, creativity-demanding, discipline-demanding things, for several decades, and we’re all going to have to pull our weight.

      A country like China, for example, may end up getting there first and best. They seem fairly capable of doing long-term thinking, and they seem like they can get their society to actually execute long-range plans.

    2. Jeremy Grimm

      Human inertia recalls the examples of early settlers of Greenland described in Jared Diamond’s “Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed”. The settlers refused to adopt some of the ways of the native they found who had adapted to life in Greenland through many centuries.

      In the case of the u.s. I believe the inertia of our Corporate persons trumps all personal inertia. The Market plans the u.s. transition to renewable energy. As far as I can see the Market will burn fossil fuels and profit from “green” government expenditures until it cannot. The profits of next quarter cannot be sacrificed to avoid losses in a following quarter or realize greater gains in a following quarter. Petroleum and gas must flow, and coal must be burned … as long as it is profitable to do so … or until the flows stop. I do not believe the u.s. Market has any plans for what happens after that.

  13. Yossarian

    Thanks for the laughs. Childish idealism is often refreshing until it proposes to kneecap the world’s economy based on a faulty premises and forecasts.

    1. Tom Pfotzer

      I often think we should establish a registry of deniers/obstructors, so that:

      a. They can crow about how they were right that climate change is a hoax, or

      b. We can accurately assess damage-compensation from the people that actively obstructed us from doing what we needed to do

      I say “let’s put our names on our policy”. Let’s get some accountability going, shall we?

      Since you’re so cock-sure, should be a perfectly reasonable thing to do.

    2. Henry Moon Pie

      I hate to get all biblical on you, but your comment reminded me of this saying of Jesus in Matthew 24:

      For as in the days that were before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered into the ark,

      And knew not until the flood came, and took them all away;

      And we’d add to that list of eating, drinking, etc. the proclivity to post comments on the Internet denying the reality of reality.

    3. steppenwolf fetchit

      If you are correct about global warming being a liberal hoax then you have a tremendous contrarian investing opportunity laid out before you.

      Just study all the predictions the global warming community makes/has made, and game out what would happen if each of these predictions occurs as predicted. Then game out what would happen if these things do NOT occur as predicted. Then game out what the majority of people will do in anticipation of these things happening as predicted.

      For example, if a majority of seaside and near-sealevel people believe global warming will raise the oceans, they will flee the seaside. Seaside property should become purchasable at pennies on the benjamin for contrarian investors willing to take a chance on the ocean not rising after all. And when the ocean fails to rise the way you assume it will fail to rise, you or your descendants will be in a position to cash in on all that seaside land you bought from people in ill-advised flight from the seaside.

      You did buy seaside land in Florida and Louisiana, right? If you haven’t, you will, right?

      Fortune favors the bold.

  14. juno mas

    Quotes from the article:

    The challenge is always scale: If energy usage in the United States could be scaled back significantly (70 to 90 percent), then a reliable all-renewable energy regime would become much easier to envision and cheaper to engineer.

    Clearly, we should aim for a sustainable energy and material consumption level, which, on average, is significantly lower than at present. If we don’t achieve this, we will eventually be caught short, with significant economic and political fallout.

    Despite our understandable wish to maintain current levels of comfort and convenience, it’s worth keeping an ecological footprint analysis in mind.

    Conservation beats consumption in the dawning post-fossil fuel era. . .
    The switch from consumerism to conservation will transform America’s culture, economy, and government policy.

    Sounds like Radical Conservation. ;)

  15. Susan the other

    So, basically, we need to subsidize the future. Because we are entangled in a for-profit economy which, if forced to follow race-to-the-bottom tactics and ruthless monopoly pricing, the new economy will never emerge from. A comprehensive transition that functions will take the stuff that works into the future, whether from the old economy or entirely new things, and simply finance it forward. There isn’t enough time left in all eternity to coax capitalist competition to resolve this on its own. We need to be guided not by consumerism for competitive profits, but by good new ecologies as they emerge. It’s that emergence we need to focus on and allow the natural connections our brave new world will come to rely on. Let Nature and science inform us. It really is a brave new world. Yesterday I read about Japans Kamiokande accelerator which purports to accelerate the creation of sufficient Higgs bosons to apply them to manufacturing processes. If I even managed to vaguely understand the whole endeavor. So, oh dear, the “god particle economy” has already been imagined.

  16. upstater

    Not a single mention of pumped storage hydro which would go a long, long way to solve the intermittancy problems with solar and wind. Pump storage is like a battery, is dispatchable and incredibly useful for “black starts” after huge blackouts. NY State has excellent pump storage potential, but there are on 2 plants built by the state owned NY Power Authority in the 60s and 70s. But such projects require a long term vision, plenty of engineering/management expertise and skilled trades, which is sorely lacking.

    The PV and wind projects can go up in a year. In NY state they are developed by PE and get huge production and tax benefits. Most go on productive ag land, not the thousands of acres of brownfields or big box roofs. Pump storage might take 5-10 years to design and build, but once done it can last centuries. PE doesn’t have such horizons. No surprise that China leads the way.

    Only passing mention of freight rail and nothing about electrifying main lines. Again such projects require a long term vision, plenty of engineering/management expertise and skilled trades! PSR on all US class 1s precludes such investments, asset stripping is de rigueur instead.

    1. CA


      January 12, 2024

      Two million one hundred thousand kilowatts! Construction of world’s highest-altitude pumped-storage power station kicks off in SW China’s Sichuan

      Construction of the world’s highest-altitude pumped-storage power station kicks off Thursday in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province.

      With an altitude of 4,300 meters, the facility is located in Daofu county in the Garze Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture, according to the PowerChina Chengdu Engineering Corporation Limited, the operator of the project.

      The station is designed with a total installed capacity of 2.1 million kilowatts and an annual power generation of 2.994 billion kilowatt-hours. It is the largest pumped storage project in Sichuan and a landmark project as part of the integrated development of water and scenic resources in the Yalong River basin, according to the company.

      It is the second highest pumped storage power station in China in terms of operating head with a maximum head of 760.7 meters, the company said.

      Pumped-storage power stations use off-peak electricity to pump water to higher locations, where it is stored and then released to generate electricity when the power supply is strained…

      1. Tom Pfotzer

        CA: the following quote is lifted from Renard’s remarks above, and since you seem to have at least some familiarity with Chinese culture, maybe Renard and you might be willing to comment on his quote, below:

        [China seems able to develop and then execute long-term plans …]

        “due to a cultural inclination to long-term societal and environmental thinking.”

        Can either Renard or CA (or anyone else that’s interested) offer commentary re: China’s cultural proclivity to develop and execute long-term plans?

    2. CA

      Along with pumped storage power, or large solar, wind and hydro installations, goes ultra-high voltage transmission. The need is to have a steady power supply transmitted over long distances from source to consumption, while there is minimal loss of power in the course of transmission. China has been working on UHV electricity transmission for years, but private utilities abroad evidently have shown fairly little interest because of the construction costs.

    3. Grumpy Engineer

      But such projects require a long term vision, plenty of engineering/management expertise and skilled trades, which is sorely lacking.

      Sigh… This is all too true. Here in the US, we’ve largely lost our ability to build large facilities like GWh-scale pumped storage system. Do you know how many large pumped storage stations we’ve built in the past 30 years? Two. The most recent was the merely “largish” (~0.3 GWh) facility at Lake Hodges, built in 2014. The one before that was the truly large (~8 GWh) facility at Rocky Mountain, built in 1995. That’s it.

      There is one large pumped storage project that is currently “in the works”, which is the 20+ GWh Eagle Mountain pumped storage facility in Southern California. Permitting for this project began back in 2007. But they still haven’t commenced with construction. They’ve been planning, studying, permitting, and dealing with lawsuits for 17 years. I was hoping they might actually start moving dirt this year, but now it looks like it’ll be in 2028: https://www.power-eng.com/news/revisiting-the-debate-who-will-build-new-u-s-pumped-storage.

      And, of course, there will be environmentalists trying the block things the whole way: https://www.npca.org/advocacy/38-protect-eagle-mountain-from-dangerous-development-proposals. I really wish these activists understood how their efforts help preserve the status quo.

  17. steppenwolf fetchit

    I remember when “consumerism” meant The Consumer Movement for product safety and product usefulness. Ralph Nader was a big name player in that space.

    Now I gather consumerism is being defined to mean endless mindless consumption. I think a better word for endless mindless consumption would be ” consumptionism”. For example, I wish the language would change enough to where the following sentence . . .
    ” The switch from consumerism to conservation will transform America’s culture, economy, and government policy.” . . . could be written as . . . ” The switch from consumptionism to conservation will transform America’s culture, economy and government policy.”

    As in: the opposite of conservation is consumption and the opposite of conservationism is consumptionism. I offer that word for free to anyone who cares to try injecting it into the language where they live.

  18. Jeremy Grimm

    “The transition to renewable energy is inevitable given the current climate crisis and the fact that fossil fuels are a finite resource.”
    Were that only so. I am aware of nothing that guarantees, successfully mandates, or motivates a necessity to transition to renewable energy. I fear it is more likely we will use up fossil fuels as fast as we possibly can … until we cannot. The only plans for a transition to renewable energy I am aware of in the u.s. seem like plans designed to engineer the transfer of substantial government assets and private assets remaining in the hands of the poor and middle class into the pockets of the good-hearted wealthy like Bill Gates, Elon Musk, or one their friends.

    Easy Stuff: I believe there are a few problems in accounting for who uses energy and where. The easy stuff starts with rooftop solar panels and mentions wind turbines. But the easy stuff seems to begin with stuff that sits on the back home owners and renters and landlords. A plan that begins with disciplines for the hoi poi seems upside down. I disagree with the post’s suggestion that “…it makes sense to electrify even more of our energy usage—heating and cooling buildings with electric air-source heat pumps and cooking with electric induction stoves, for example.” Until the u.s. has a reliable Grid and a most generous subsidy to the hoi poi it is a costly mistake to push all these initiatives toward all-electric everything — and most costly to those least able to absorb the costs. And “…we can easily and cheaply promote walking, bicycling, and public transit” and replace gasoline fueled automobiles with electric vehicles?” I doubt the author has tried to walk to the Dollar Store up the road from where I live [on a warm dry day]. That supposedly easy change would require a very big change in the driving habits of the Eighteen-wheel and and hopped up ‘bad-ass’ trucks driving along the road for mile or so walk or bicycle ride to the Dollar Store — safety?

    Building codes “…strengthened to mandate net-zero or near-net-zero energy performance for new construction…” should do a great job of making housing even more unaffordable. I believe zoning codes via ordinance and local politics need to be relaxed to lower the costs to small developers developing housing designed for the needs of the Populace. The property taxes and the implicit taxes of inspections along with prescriptive building codes and high costs of variance procedures all offer fat that must be cut long before passing ordinances requiring induction stoves in new construction.

    Satisfying the needs for food, and shelter, and do not forget fresh water, air, and clothing, definitely occupies the minds and pocketbooks of the Populace. Strange these concerns are the “Easy Stuff” for dealing with climate chaos. I believe this indicates that human adaptation to climate chaos and resource depletion will probably affect the Populace least since it incurs the least cost and complication. To me, this suggests a critical ‘fly’ in the ointment. It indirectly and probably unintentionally [I am generous] directs attention to the needs, desires, concerns of the Elites.

    1. Paris

      IuiHe’s part of the PMC elite that like to lecture and dictate to the rest of us what we should do while they fly their private jets, travel on their yachts and drive around on their $100k + cars to their second/third vacation homes (how about we prohibit the elite of owning vacation houses?). The rules for thee, not for me. Hypocrites.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        “He’s part of the PMC elite that like to lecture and dictate”

        I don’t think these guys at the Post-Carbon Institute fit your stereotype. In any case, you’re trying to ad hom those who are trying to deliver a little reality to counter both the “there’s no problem” and the “we’ve got this” crowd.

        One of the problems in our society is that so many people aspire to fly on private jets (TV ads are ubiquitous), travel on their yachts and hang out at their second home. Compete to consume is the basis of our society, and somehow, the Great Invisible Hand is supposed to make it all work out.

  19. Paris

    Lol: “While we are busy replacing these with electric vehicles, we can easily and cheaply promote walking, bicycling, and public transit.”
    Paper accepts anything, right? He’s never been to the real America, dude lives in Berkeley. Come visit us in Houston.

  20. Craig Dempsey

    From a public relations standpoint, it may be helpful to give politicians or the public the impression that life will go on as before while we unplug coal power plants and plug-in solar panels. Still, the reality will probably be quite different.”

    The above quote is in my opinion the key passage in the whole article. The article is a long list of needed major changes. Perhaps with enough hopium we can keep the ship steady until we can catch up with the needed improvements. Naomi Klein’s book mentioned above is spot on. I read it shortly after it came out, and it is a powerful condemnation of capitalism’s total incapability for dealing with global warming.

    For anyone who wants to take a fresh look at this area, I suggest Jem Bendell’s new book, “Breaking Together: A Freedom Loving Response to Collapse” as a baseline for anyone to read who is interested in the question of adapting to climate change. Bendell is a self-professed “doomster” who believes societal collapse has already started, and lays out statistics to explain why he believes this. Read his book, and see if you can argue your way back to hopium. Note: His book is available as a free download at the end of the review linked to the title of “Breaking Together.”

  21. Kalen

    The author’s map for transition while interesting is more a polite way to omit critical issues under overall agreeable ideas mainly of “green” technological advancement. But it’s not that easy.

    While technology is important for reducing use of fossil fuels changes to social organization are vital. In long term we don’t need more electric cars that still require a lot of fossil fuels and energy to build and operate them. We certainly don’t need Wall Street and Silicon Valley oligarchy to build them for us while making huge profits for themselves. In fact profit should be removed from global climatic initiatives as it suppresses short term unprofitable solutions most beneficial for society while promotes and prioritizes profits.

    instead we need smart environmental locally financed by the people tight urban planning and development that would easily reduce need for energy and transportation by 95% as people would live and work within tight communities with healthcare, education and work as well as family and friends within walking distance. But is a taboo as it involves huge obstacles property laws among them.

    This kind of urban planning is not a utopia but return to similar ways most of people in the world lived just over century and half ago but this time with no need for provincial poverty and isolation from the world due to advanced remote communication technologies.

    In order to successfully deal with climate challenge and societal/economic challenges stemming from it equal, equitable and egalitarian self governed sovereign societies of caring and sharing of commons should be established worldwide with power to decide independently how to deal with their specific climatic challenges in their own ways to benefit themselves and assure self-sustainability of their local environment.

    This is what real solutions should be based upon.

    Near immediate mitigation of detrimental to society results of changes of global climatic patterns is the focus of most of global south agenda while global north seems to pursue long term goal of technological transition aimed to prevent as they put it global climatic catastrophe sometime in the future while doing not enough now to help mostly poor and working people to deal with planned in fact painful transition that so far are mostly felt by skyrocketing energy prices pushing peoples into energy poverty as a governments’ policies to curb most of demand.

    It is global corporate oligarchy that must assume responsibility for damage their governing legacy and contemporary choices and policies made during centuries of their mad chase for profits. They have to take responsibility for suffering of world societies and actual, current decline of life sustaining earth’s environment. People who had no choice but to submit to imposed rules of capital should not pay for consequences of this transition.

    1. Jeremy Grimm

      I had hoped someone would mention the so-called Integral Fast Reactors that Hansen fancies. I know far too little about them.

  22. AG

    Habeck´s ministry according to BILD has an intern. paper about dismantling the German gas grid/supply network

    The idea was apparently floated even before hydrogen plans had been worked out.
    But as is known there is no viable altern. per hydrogen available now.

    So the ministry says, this paper is just one of various drafts:

    since archive.is is blocked I have to c&p the text here for later (it will soon be paywalled)

    Delicate paper on the dismantling of the gas network: Now the Ministry of Economic Affairs has commented

    Is Robert Habeck planning to dismantle the gas networks soon? And what do owners of gas heaters have to expect? The Ministry of Economic Affairs comments.

    by Liudmila Kotlyarova

    Is the federal government planning to dismantle the 500,000 kilometer long German gas distribution networks piece by piece?

    On Monday, the Bild newspaper leaked the 23-page paper from the Ministry of Economics entitled “Transforming gas/hydrogen distribution networks”. Gas distribution networks will no longer be needed in their current form and scope by 2045 at the latest, the paper says.

    In the future, network operators could also terminate gas connections if they were no longer economical. Millions of tenants and owners who currently have 50 percent gas heating will only have to rely on gas heating for a maximum of 20 percent in the future, it is said. It is said that district heating and heat pumps would displace them.

    Boom in gas heating in Germany: No hydrogen available?

    Germany experienced an unprecedented boom in gas heating last year . 790,500 new gas boilers were sold: a record! Energy experts estimated that owners of gas heaters could later expect hydrogen to be added to existing gas networks, which would increase the legitimacy of the device in the heating transition.

    But according to the leaked paper, the Ministry of Economic Affairs apparently does not believe that hydrogen and biomethane will also be sufficiently available for heating. The new Building Energy Act, known for short as the Heating Act , envisaged hydrogen as a fully-fledged gas alternative. What do consumers have to prepare for now?

    The Federal Ministry for Economic Affairs and Climate Protection (BMWK) under the leadership of Robert Habeck (Greens) initially gives the all-clear upon request. “The gas distribution networks must continue to operate safely as part of the transformation,” a ministry spokesman told the Berliner Zeitung. A secure and still economical supply must be guaranteed until alternatives are developed.

    Ministry of Economics on gas network dismantling: “Purely technical consultation started”

    Ultimately, however, it will depend on the local conditions for the more than 700 gas distribution network operators, it is said. “The municipalities are now working on heat planning in the first phase and will decide where they should rely on district heating and where gas distribution networks should be reallocated to hydrogen networks or biomethane.”

    The Ministry of Economic Affairs signaled that the leaked paper was not yet a finished plan. The BMWK has now launched “a purely technical consultation on the topic of dismantling gas networks, which formulates questions about how the future regulatory framework can be designed and deliberately presents various options for an initial discussion,” emphasized the spokesman and followed up: This is a matter of discussion Questions, not determinations. “The answers to the consultation will now be awaited and then evaluated in peace.”

    The ministry did not respond to the Berliner Zeitung’s question as to why the dismantling of the gas networks was even planned before the federal government’s hydrogen import strategy was presented. The authority has also not commented on whether such an import strategy will be prepared and when it will be presented.

    Economics Minister Habeck discussed a possible hydrogen partnership with representatives from Canada in Hamburg on Monday; seven German-Canadian projects are currently being planned and implemented. However , Zukunft Gas, the association of German gas importers, had previously criticized the lack of a uniform strategy for importing gas alternatives on paper .

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