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The great energy descent – Part 1: Can renewables replace fossil fuels?

In summary, fossil fuels, as finite resources, will peak and decline in the next decades. However, they are extremely difficult to replace, so it’s unlikely that alternatives can replace them at the scale required. You can check the short version of the post.

This is part 1 of 3 different EA forum posts talking about energy depletion as an important topic that will shape the future:

1 – Decline of fossil fuels and why alternative energy sources will probably not scale up

2 – Consequences: The role of investment, impact on economic growth and systemic risks. Plus, what that means for EA causes.

3 – What we can do, what we can’t do, and why few people really anticipate this problem

Note: The original post was too long, so I divided it in 3 to avoid that (energy limits, consequences, what to do). The scope here is very broad, so the posts will only contain the overall reasoning and main arguments. If you are doubtful about a specific point, I wrote detailed sections that I added to an Additional Document (it’s 140 pages, so I think I have covered the main counterarguments here). You can engage in comments in this Doc. For instance, you can read “Have other EAs addressed this topic?” in this section.

A quick introduction on energy

It’s often hard to see the importance of energy, so here’s a quick intro on it. Energy, simply put, defines the capacity to do work in a system (see here for more details). We need it to do basically anything. As Richard Heinberg puts it in his book Power: “if you want to understand any ecosystem or human society, a good rule of thumb is to follow the energy.”…

…click on the above link to read the rest…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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