Time to Take the Energy Problem Even More Seriously

Many people are asking the wrong questions, proposing false solutions

This page was published 14 years ago. Find the latest on Earthjustice’s work.

Just got wind of a very sobering booklet, very sobering indeed. It’s called Searching for Miracles, a joint publication of the International Forum on Globalization and the Post Carbon Institute, written by Richard Heinberg with a foreword by Jerry Mander.

The proposition Heinberg set out to explore is this: If society somehow managed to build all the solar installations possible—rooftop, central station, the works—plus all the wind farms and every other kind of good, clean, sustainable energy supply operation, would it be enough to serve current demand world-wide as fossil fuels run out and plants that rely on them are phased out or converted to other fuels?

The answer is a resounding no.

The reasons are several—some kinds of installations, for example, require so much energy to build and operate that the net energy they produce isn’t worth it. In fact, Heinberg measures 18 energy systems (conventional and sustainable alike) against nine criteria (cost, environmental impact, reliability, etc.) and concludes that there’s no alternative to a total restructuring of society toward conservation: “less and local,” as the slogan goes.

Summing up: “Economic growth,” Mander writes, is an absurdity in a finite system, preposterous on its face, and will soon be over.” Take a look.

Tom Turner literally wrote the books about Earthjustice during his more-than-25 years with the organization. A lifelong resident of Berkeley, CA, he is most passionate about Earthjustice's maiden issue: wilderness preservation.