So many things change without fossil fuels


Gail Tverberg has permitted me to copy the headings from her post in  Our Finite World. Her post tells us how much the current system depends upon fossil fuels.

To whet your appetite, here are the headings of her piece. This is what she says will happen in an economy without fossil fuels:

[1] Banks, as we know them, will be likely to fail.

[2] Today’s governments will fail.

[3] Nearly all of today’s businesses will fail.

[4] Grid electricity and the internet will disappear.

[5] International trade will be scaled back greatly.

[6] Agriculture will become much less efficient.

[7] Future labour needs are likely to be most needed in the agricultural sector.

[8] Home heating will become a luxury item available only to the wealthy.

[9] Living alone will become a thing of the past.

[10] Governments and their laws will shrink in importance.  Instead, new traditions and new religions will play a greater role in keeping order.

To read an explanation of each above heading, go to the post. It may be argued that renewable energy sources will take over from fossil fuels as they become depleted.

But Tim Morgan points out that: “…. renewables cannot match the energy density of fossil fuels.  No electricity storage system can ever replicate the ratio of power-to-weight of the humble fuel tank.  This ratio of power to weight is a critical limitation.  It’s why we cannot use batteries to propel large aircraft, or build electricity-powered ships with the same cargo-carrying capabilities as vessels fuelled by oil.

….this lesser density creates a dependency relationship between renewables and fossil fuels.

The lesser density of wind and solar power, in comparison with fossil fuels, means that these energy systems require a correspondingly larger material infrastructure.

No government would contemplate supporting any of these things, let alone advocate doing them. Yet there seems to be a “body of opinion” that supports a future of diminishing availability of fossil fuels.

Maybe the direction of travel is heading towards the end of the financial viability of fossil fuels – as a natural process despite government resistance.  In this case, it will be up to us to respond as best we can as each thing appears on the horizon.

This post first appeared at


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Radix is the radical centre think tank. We welcome all contributions which promote system change, challenge established notions and re-imagine our societies. The views expressed here are those of the individual contributor and not necessarily shared by Radix.

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