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Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXIX–Non-Renewable Renewable Energy-Harvesting Technologies (NRREHT): A Paradox For Our Times?

Today’s Contemplation: Collapse Cometh LXXIX

November 24, 2022 (original posting date)

Chitchen Itza, Mexico. (1986) Photo by author.

Non-Renewable Renewable Energy-Harvesting Technologies (NRREHT): A Paradox For Our Times?

A short contemplation after reading Richard Heinberg’s latest article and the apparent paradox that is evident in the musings of a number of writers in the energy-ecology nexus.

Paradox: “…having qualities that seem to be opposites” (Reference)

In his latest post, that highlights the failings of the ‘renewable’ energy transition, Richard Heinberg seems to be arguing in terms of contradictory assertions, and ones which I am not sure can be overcome — at least, not without exacerbating our primary predicament of ecological overshoot[1].

On the one hand he points out the significant failings, limitations, and negative consequences of NRREHT, but on the other argues for our pursuing them at great haste so as to attain a ‘soft landing’ for our species’ inevitable energy descent.

For example:
1) Greenhouse gas emissions continue to increase despite an increase in NRREHT (in other words, their distribution/use is supplementing continued economic growth/consumption);
2) NRREHT require continued and increased use/extraction of non-renewable resources that are already demonstrating declining marginal returns (i.e., their scarcity is already apparent);
3) There is competing evidence/data regarding the availability of materials/minerals as to whether even a single generation of NRREHT can be produced to substitute for fossil fuel energy;
4) The energy costs of recycling suggests even in a best-case scenario NRREHT simply kicks-the-can-down-the-road for industrial civilisation;
5) NRREHT continue to require industrial production processes that degrade the environment and destroy ecological systems — perhaps just at a slightly less intensive rate.

While he does also argue for a significant powering-down of our energy-intensive ways — perhaps the easiest and most straightforward means of slowing down the speed of our destruction — I fear the concerted push for NNREHT he also argues for does little but, via A LOT of denial and bargaining, simply kicks-the-can-down-the-road in terms of confronting our predicament (especially as it pertains to significant and necessary fossil fuel inputs as well as the negative impacts upon ecological systems and mineral resource communities/regions).

My sense is that despite all the obvious pitfalls of NNREHT and significant negative consequences (particularly ecological) they will continue to be pursued with this strategy sold/marketed as the ‘solution’ to transitioning from fossil fuels.

This will not be the first time that our ruling caste and profiteers have leveraged a ‘crisis’ to enrich themselves…but it may well be the last.

A handful of other views/comments within the energy-ecology nexus regarding ‘renewables’ (in no particular order and all have some great insights/arguments):
Gail Tverbergthisthisthis, and/or this.
Simon Michauxthisthisthis, and/or this.
Ugo Bardithisthisthis, and/or this.
Alice Friedemannthisthisthis, and/or this.
Peak Prosperity (Chris Martenson/Adam Taggert): thisthisthis, and/or this.
The Honest Sorcererthisthisthis, and/or this.
Erik Michaelsthisthisthis, and/or this.
Raúl Ilargi Meijerthisthisthis, and/or this.
Rob Mielcarskithisthisthis, and/or this.
John Michael Greerthisthisthis, and/or this.
Tim Watkinsthisthisthis, and/or this.
Tim Morganthisthisthis, and/or this.
Kurt Cobbthisthisthis, and/or this.
Mike Stassethisthisthis, and/or this.
Charles Hugh Smiththisthisthis, and/or this.
Nate Hagensthisthisthis, and/or this.

Another view on Heinberg’s article can be found here.

[1] See thisthisthisthis, and/or this.

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