Saturday, March 14, 2009


Renewables and Industrial Civilization

One blog I make a point of visiting at least once a week is the R-Squared Energy Blog. I don’t think its author would agree with me in stating categorically that renewables cannot prop up industrial civilization, but a lot of his posts appear to back up my contention. Just in the last week or so he has written enlightening posts on thermal depolymerization, algal biodiesel, and cellulosic ethanol that should make the most die-hard proponents of these technologies as saviors of industrial society at least seriously rethink their positions.

Let me make it clear that I have nothing against biofuels (or any other renewables) themselves. Until humans learned to use fossil fuels, they made do with renewables. The problem is the belief that renewables will be able to sustain what fossil fuels have built. Renewables simply cannot provide the colossal amount of stored solar energy that fossil fuels do. Of course some storage is possible, but as a rule we will have to make do with real-time solar energy. As such, civilization will have to be scaled down dramatically.

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