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Before Winter Comes

Before Winter Comes

I didn’t think it would be necessary for me to start talking about energy issues quite so soon. Granted, industrial civilization remains hopelessly dependent for its very survival on dwindling supplies of fossil fuels, which are being used up at breakneck paces to prop up the absurdly extravagant lifestyles of a handful of rich nations.  Granted, the “green energy revolution” that soaked up so much investment money in recent decades turned out to be yet another gargantuan giveaway to corporations, while plenty of more modest investments that might have done some good got deep-sixed because they didn’t make the kleptocratic rich even richer. Granted, our governments have wasted decades we didn’t have to spare and squandered resources that might have enabled us to cushion the descent into the deindustrial future ahead of us.

Even so, I thought we had a little longer before the remorseless mathematics of depletion tipped us over from rising prices to actual shortages. Of course I didn’t expect the Russo-Ukrainian War to break out, or for Europe to respond with a flurry of shrill denunciations and ineffective sanctions while still demanding that Russia keep supplying it with oil and natural gas.  Russia’s angry riposte hasn’t just driven energy bills across Europe to unprecedented heights. It’s also shown just how brittle global energy markets have become—and that in turn offers fair warning of how little spare capacity the world’s remaining fossil fuel reserves have left.

Those of my readers who remember the energy crises of the 1970s, as I do, may be forgiven a certain sense of déjà vu.  Back then it was a war between Israel and an alliance of Arab nations that caused a major fossil fuel supplier to yank their product from the market, sending prices skyrocketing…

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The Earth’s Battery Is Running Low

The Earth’s Battery Is Running Low

We’ve drained our planet’s stored energy, scientists say, with no rechargeable plug in sight.

In the quiet of summer, a couple of U.S. scientists argued in the pages of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences that modern civilization has drained the Earth — an ancient battery of stored chemical energy — to a dangerous low.

Although the battery metaphor made headlines in leading newspapers in China, India and Russia, the paper didn’t garner “much immediate attention in North America,” admits lead author John Schramski, a mechanical engineer and an ecologist.

And that’s a shame, because the paper gives ordinary people an elegant metaphor to understand the globe’s stagnating economic and political systems and their close relatives: collapsing ecosystems. It also offers a blunt course of action: “drastic” energy conservation.

It, too, comes with a provocative title: “Human domination of the biosphere: Rapid discharge of the Earth-space battery foretells the future of humankind.”

The battery metaphor speaks volumes and then some.

In the paper, Schramski and his colleagues at the University of Georgia and the University of New Mexico compared the energy state of the Earth to “the energy state of a house powered by a once-charged battery supplying all energy for lights, heating, cooling, cooking, power appliances and electronic communication.”


It took hundreds of millions of years for photosynthetic plants to trickle charge that battery. Those plants converted low quality sunlight into high-quality chemical energy stored either in living biomass (forests and plankton) or more lastingly in the dead plants and animals that became oil, gas and coal.

But in just a few centuries humans and “the modern industrial-technological informational society” have spent that stored chemical energy and depleted the Earth-space battery.

Society partly drains the battery by converting forests and grasslands into agricultural fields. It diminishes the battery further by burning fossil fuels to plow fields and build cities. Human engineering of one kind or another has left a mark on 83 per cent of the planet.


…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Will Ontario miss the boat on energy conservation? | – Environmental Defence

Will Ontario miss the boat on energy conservation? | – Environmental Defence.

Energy conservation is the cheapest and easiest way to cut greenhouse gas emissions.

Research shows that reducing energy use creates jobs, increases our GDP, lowers government deficits, and cuts carbon pollution. It’s for these reasons that the Ontario government adopted the principle of “Conservation First” in its recent Long Term Energy Plan. The government rightly sees that increased conservation is a win for everyone.

Unfortunately, as our new study shows, the push for conservation may fail somewhere between vision and implementation.

The Ontario Energy Board (OEB), the organization that oversees the natural gas companies – Enbridge and Union Gas –  was directed by the Minister of Energy to develop new rules (called a “framework”) to enable “all cost-effective conservation.”  Essentially this means creating a system to fund conservation programs in all cases where the costs of a new purchase, such as a furnace, are more than offset by the energy cost savings resulting from the purchase.

But the OEB appears prepared to all but ignore the Minister’s directive.

…click on the above link to read the rest of the article…

Olduvai IV: Courage
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Olduvai II: Exodus
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