The true feasibility of moving away from fossil fuels

One of the great misconceptions of our time is the belief that we can move away from fossil fuels if we make suitable choices on fuels. In one view, we can make the transition to a low-energy economy powered by wind, water, and solar. In other versions, we might include some other energy sources, such as biofuels or nuclear, but the story is not very different.

The problem is the same regardless of what lower bound a person chooses: our economy is way too dependent on consuming an amount of energy that grows with each added human participant in the economy. This added energy is necessary because each person needs food, transportation, housing, and clothing, all of which are dependent upon energy consumption. The economy operates under the laws of physics, and history shows disturbing outcomes if energy consumption per capita declines.

There are a number of issues:

  • The impact of alternative energy sources is smaller than commonly believed.
  • When countries have reduced their energy consumption per capita by significant amounts, the results have been very unsatisfactory.
  • Energy consumption plays a bigger role in our lives than most of us imagine.
  • It seems likely that fossil fuels will leave us before we can leave them.
  • The timing of when fossil fuels will leave us seems to depend on when central banks lose their ability to stimulate the economy through lower interest rates.
  • If fossil fuels leave us, the result could be the collapse of financial systems and governments.

[1] Wind, water and solar provide only a small share of energy consumption today; any transition to the use of renewables alone would have huge repercussions.

According to BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy data, wind, water and solar only accounted for 9.4% 0f total energy consumption in 2017.

Figure 1. Wind, Water and Solar as a percentage of total energy consumption, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy.

Even if we make the assumption that these types of energy consumption will continue to achieve the same percentage increases as they have achieved in the last 10 years, it will still take 20 more years for wind, water, and solar to reach 20% of total energy consumption.

Thus, even in 20 years, the world would need to reduce energy consumption by 80% in order to operate the economy on wind, water and solar alone. To get down to today’s level of energy production provided by wind, water and solar, we would need to reduce energy consumption by 90%.

[2] Venezuela’s example (Figure 1, above) illustrates that even if a country has an above average contribution of renewables, plus significant oil reserves, it can still have major problems.

One point people miss is that having a large share of renewables doesn’t necessarily mean that the lights will stay on. A major issue is the need for long distance transmission lines to transport the renewable electricity from where it is generated to where it is to be used. These lines must constantly be maintained. Maintenance of electrical transmission lines has been an issue in both Venezuela’s electrical outages and in California’s recent fires attributed to the utility PG&E.

There is also the issue of variability of wind, water and solar energy. (Note the year-to-year variability indicated in the Venezuela line in Figure 1.) A country cannot really depend on its full amount of wind, water, and solar unless it has a truly huge amount of electrical storage: enough to last from season-to-season and year-to-year. Alternatively, an extraordinarily large quantity of long-distance transmission lines, plus the ability to maintain these lines for the long term, would seem to be required.

[3] When individual countries have experienced cutbacks in their energy consumption per capita, the effects have generally been extremely disruptive, even with cutbacks far more modest than the target level of 80% to 90% that we would need to get off fossil fuels. 

Notice that in these analyses, we are looking at “energy consumption per capita.” This calculation takes the total consumption of all kinds of energy (including oil, coal, natural gas, biofuels, nuclear, hydroelectric, and renewables) and divides it by the population.

Energy consumption per capita depends to a significant extent on what citizens within a given economy can afford. It also depends on the extent of industrialization of an economy. If a major portion of industrial jobs are sent to China and India and only service jobs are retained, energy consumption per capita can be expected to fall. This happens partly because local companies no longer need to use as many energy products. Additionally, workers find mostly service jobs available; these jobs pay enough less that workers must cut back on buying goods such as homes and cars, reducing their energy consumption.

Example 1. Spain and Greece Between 2007-2014

Figure 2. Greece and Spain energy consumption per capita. Energy data is from BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy; population estimates are UN 2017 population estimates.

The period between 2007 and 2014 was a period when oil prices tended to be very high. Both Greece and Spain are very dependent on oil because of their sizable tourist industries. Higher oil prices made the tourism services these countries sold more expensive for their consumers. In both countries, energy consumption per capita started falling in 2008 and continued to fall until 2014, when oil prices began falling. Spain’s energy consumption per capita fell by 18% between 2007 and 2014; Greece’s fell by 24% over the same period.

Both Greece and Spain experienced high unemployment rates, and both have needed debt bailouts to keep their financial systems operating. Austerity measures were forced on Greece. The effects on the economies of these countries were severe. Regarding Spain, Wikipedia has a section called, “2008 to 2014 Spanish financial crisis,” suggesting that the loss of energy consumption per capita was highly correlated with the country’s financial crisis.

Example 2: France and the UK, 2004 – 2017

Both France and the UK have experienced falling energy consumption per capita since 2004, as oil production dropped (UK) and as industrialization was shifted to countries with a cheaper total cost of labor and fuel. Immigrant labor was added, as well, to better compete with the cost structures of the countries that France and the UK were competing against. With the new mix of workers and jobs, the quantity of goods and services that these workers could afford (per capita) has been falling.

Figure 3. France and UK energy consumption per capita. Energy data is from BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy; population estimates are UN 2017 population estimates.

Comparing 2017 to 2004, energy consumption per capita is down 16% for France and 25% in the UK. Many UK citizens have been very unhappy, wanting to leave the European Union.

France recently has been experiencing “Yellow Vest” protests, at least partly related to an increase in carbon taxes. Higher carbon taxes would make energy-based goods and services less affordable. This would likely reduce France’s energy consumption per capita even further. French citizens with their protests are clearly not happy about how they are being affected by these changes.

Example 3: Syria (2006-2016) and Yemen (2009-2016)

Both Syria and Yemen are examples of formerly oil-exporting countries that are far past their peak production. Declining energy consumption per capita has been forced on both countries because, with their oil exports falling, the countries can no longer afford to use as much energy as they did in the past for previous uses, such as irrigation. If less irrigation is used, food production and jobs are lost. (Syria and Yemen)

Figure 4. Syria and Yemen energy consumption per capita. Energy consumption data from US Energy Information Administration; population estimates are UN 2017 estimates.

Between Yemen’s peak year in energy consumption per capita (2009) and the last year shown (2016), its energy consumption per capita dropped by 66%. Yemen has been named by the United Nations as the country with the “world’s worst humanitarian crisis.” Yemen cannot provide adequate food and water for its citizens. Yemen is involved in a civil war that others have entered into as well. I would describe the war as being at least partly a resource war.

The situation with Syria is similar. Syria’s energy consumption per capita declined 55% between its peak year (2006) and the last year available (2016). Syria is also involved in a civil war that has been entered into by others. Here again, the issue seems to be inadequate resources per capita; war participants are to some extent fighting over the limited resources that are available.

Example 4: Venezuela (2008-2017)

Figure 5. Energy consumption per capita for Venezuela, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy data and UN 2017 population estimates.

Between 2008 and 2017, energy consumption per capita in Venezuela declined by 23%. This is a little less than the decreases experienced by the UK and Greece during their periods of decline.

Even with this level of decline, Venezuela has been having difficulty providing adequate services to its citizens. There have been reports of empty supermarket shelves. Venezuela has not been able to maintain its electrical system properly, leading to many outages.

[4] Most people are surprised to learn that energy is required for every part of the economy. When adequate energy is not available, an economy is likely to first shrink back in recession; eventually, it may collapse entirely.

Physics tells us that energy consumption in a thermodynamically open system enables all kinds of “complexity.” Energy consumption enables specialization and hierarchical organizations. For example, growing energy consumption enables the organizations and supply lines needed to manufacture computers and other high-tech goods. Of course, energy consumption also enables what we think of as typical energy uses: the transportation of goods, the smelting of metals, the heating and air-conditioning of buildings, and the construction of roads. Energy is even required to allow pixels to appear on a computer screen.

Pre-humans learned to control fire over one million years ago. The burning of biomass was a tool that could be used for many purposes, including keeping warm in colder climates, frightening away predators, and creating better tools. Perhaps its most important use was to permit food to be cooked, because cooking increases food’s nutritional availability. Cooked food seems to have been important in allowing the brains of humans to grow bigger at the same time that teeth, jaws and guts could shrink compared to those of ancestors. Humans today need to be able to continue to cook part of their food to have a reasonable chance of survival.

Any kind of governmental organization requires energy. Having a single leader takes the least energy, especially if the leader can continue to perform his non-leadership duties. Any kind of added governmental service (such as roads or schools) requires energy. Having elected leaders who vote on decisions takes more energy than having a king with a few high-level aides. Having multiple layers of government takes energy. Each new intergovernmental organization requires energy to fly its officials around and implement its programs.

International trade clearly requires energy consumption. In fact, pretty much every activity of businesses requires energy consumption.

Needless to say, the study of science or of medicine requires energy consumption, because without significant energy consumption to leverage human energy, nearly every person must be a subsistence level farmer, with little time to study or to take time off from farming to write (or even read) books. Of course, manufacturing medicines and test tubes requires energy, as does creating sterile environments.

We think of the many parts of the economy as requiring money, but it is really the physical goods and services that money can buy, and the energy that makes these goods and services possible, that are important. These goods and services depend to a very large extent on the supply of energy being consumed at a given point in time–for example, the amount of electricity being delivered to customers and the amount of gasoline and diesel being sold. Supply chains are very dependent on each part of the system being available when needed. If one part is missing, long delays and eventually collapse can occur.

[5] If the supply of energy to an economy is reduced for any reason, the result tends to be very disruptive, as shown in the examples given in Section [3], above.

When an economy doesn’t have enough energy, its self-organizing feature starts eliminating pieces of the economic system that it cannot support. The financial system tends to be very vulnerable because without adequate economic growth, it becomes very difficult for borrowers to repay debt with interest. This was part of the problem that Greece and Spain had in the period when their energy consumption per capita declined. A person wonders what would have happened to these countries without bailouts from the European Union and others.

Another part that is very vulnerable is governmental organizations, especially the higher layers of government that were added last. In 1991, the Soviet Union’s central government was lost, leaving the governments of the 15 republics that were part of the Soviet Union. As energy consumption per capita declines, the European Union would seem to be very vulnerable. Other international organizations, such as the World Trade Organization and the International Monetary Fund, would seem to be vulnerable, as well.

The electrical system is very complex. It seems to be easily disrupted if there is a material decrease in energy consumption per capita because maintenance of the system becomes difficult.

If energy consumption per capita falls dramatically, many changes that don’t seem directly energy-related can be expected. For example, the roles of men and women are likely to change. Without modern medical care, women will likely need to become the mothers of several children in order that an average of two can survive long enough to raise their own children. Men will be valued for the heavy manual labor that they can perform. Today’s view of the equality of the sexes is likely to disappear because sex differences will become much more important in a low-energy world.

Needless to say, other aspects of a low-energy economy might be very different as well. For example, one very low-energy type of economic system is a “gift economy.” In such an economy, the status of each individual is determined by the amount that that person can give away. Anything a person obtains must automatically be shared with the local group or the individual will be expelled from the group. In an economy with very low complexity, this kind of economy seems to work. A gift economy doesn’t require money or debt!

[6] Most people assume that moving away from fossil fuels is something we can choose to do with whatever timing we would like. I would argue that we are not in charge of the process. Instead, fossil fuels will leave us when we lose the ability to reduce interest rates sufficiently to keep oil and other fossil fuel prices high enough for energy producers.

Something that may seem strange to those who do not follow the issue is the fact that oil (and other energy prices) seem to be very much influenced by interest rates and the level of debt. In general, the lower the interest rate, the more affordable high-priced goods such as factories, homes, and automobiles become, and the higher commodity prices of all kinds can be. “Demand” increases with falling interest rates, causing energy prices of all types to rise.

Figure 6.

The cost of extracting oil is less important in determining oil prices than a person might expect. Instead, prices seem to be determined by what end products consumers (in the aggregate) can afford. In general, the more debt that individual citizens, businesses and governments can obtain, the higher that oil and other energy prices can rise. Of course, if interest rates start rising (instead of falling), there is a significant chance of a debt bubble popping, as defaults rise and asset prices decline.

Interest rates have been generally falling since 1981 (Figure 7). This is the direction needed to support ever-higher energy prices.

Figure 7. Chart of 3-month and 10-year interest rates, prepared by the FRED, using data through March 27, 2019.

The danger now is that interest rates are approaching the lowest level that they can possibly reach. We need lower interest rates to support the higher prices that oil producers require, as their costs rise because of depletion. In fact, if we compare Figures 7 and 8, the Federal Reserve has been supporting higher oil and other energy prices with falling interest rates practically the whole time since oil prices rose above the inflation adjusted level of $20 per barrel!

Figure 8. Historical inflation adjusted prices oil, based on data from 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy, with the low price period for oil highlighted.

Once the Federal Reserve and other central banks lose their ability to cut interest rates further to support the need for ever-rising oil prices, the danger is that oil and other commodity prices will fall too low for producers. The situation is likely to look like the second half of 2008 in Figure 6. The difference, as we reach limits on how low interest rates can fall, is that it will no longer be possible to stimulate the economy to get energy and other commodity prices back up to an acceptable level for producers.

[7] Once we hit the “no more stimulus impasse,” fossil fuels will begin leaving us because prices will fall too low for companies extracting these fuels. They will be forced to leave because they cannot make an adequate profit.

One example of an oil producer whose production was affected by an extended period of low prices is the Soviet Union (or USSR).

Figure 9. Oil production of the former Soviet Union together with oil prices in 2017 US$. All amounts from 2018 BP Statistical Review of World Energy.

The US substantially raised interest rates in 1980-1981 (Figure 7). This led to a sharp reduction in oil prices, as the higher interest rates cut back investment of many kinds, around the world. Given the low price of oil, the Soviet Union reduced new investment in new fields. This slowdown in investment first reduced the rate of growth in oil production, and eventually led to a decline in production in 1988 (Figure 9). When oil prices rose again, production did also.

Figure 10. Energy consumption per capita for the former Soviet Union, based on BP 2018 Statistical Review of World Energy data and UN 2017 population estimates.

The Soviet Union’s energy consumption per capita reached its highest level in 1988 and began declining in 1989. The central government of the Soviet Union did not collapse until late 1991, as the economy was increasingly affected by falling oil export revenue.

Some of the changes that occurred as the economy simplified itself were the loss of the central government, the loss of a large share of industry, and a great deal of job loss. Energy consumption per capita dropped by 36% between 1988 and 1998. It has never regained its former level.

Venezuela is another example of an oil exporter that, in theory, could export more oil, if oil prices were higher. It is interesting to note that Venezuela’s highest energy consumption per capita occurred in 2008, when oil prices were high.

We are now getting a chance to observe what the collapse in Venezuela looks like on a day- by-day basis. Figure 5, above, shows Venezuela’s energy consumption per capita pattern through 2017. Low oil prices since 2014 have particularly adversely affected the country.

[8] Conclusion: We can’t know exactly what is ahead, but it is clear that moving away from fossil fuels will be far more destructive of our current economy than nearly everyone expects. 

It is very easy to make optimistic forecasts about the future if a person doesn’t carefully examine what the data and the science seem to be telling us. Most researchers come from narrow academic backgrounds that do not seek out insights from other fields, so they tend not to understand the background story.

A second issue is the desire for a “happy ever after” ending to our current energy predicament. If a researcher is creating an economic model without understanding the underlying principles, why not offer an outcome that citizens will like? Such a solution can help politicians get re-elected and can help researchers get grants for more research.

We should be examining the situation more closely than most people have considered. The fact that interest rates cannot drop much further is particularly concerning.

1,253 thoughts on “The true feasibility of moving away from fossil fuels

    • “If the next crisis is anything like the last it could compel policy makers to consider some pretty unorthodox monetary interventions. One of those has been around for almost a century, even if it’s rarely been tried: money that “rusts”. The idea traces to an unorthodox thinker named Silvio Gesell… Gesell proposed that money be designed to steadily depreciate. He proposed that the rate of decline be fixed at 5 percent a year, though the rate could vary.”

      • “In recent decades, governments from across the world have rarely run budget surpluses, frequently increasing spending to pay for things that were deemed to be essential. However, they have always claimed that they intended to cut the deficit eventually. Under MMT that could be about to change – and if it does, the US economy will be entering uncharted territory.”

        • “A final approach would be so-called helicopter money: The Fed would distribute money directly to citizens, in the hope that they would spend it. This is akin to fiscal stimulus, but financed by new money creation rather than by federal spending. It’s a radical approach that would probably require legal changes, but some believe it could be powerful. Others worry it could end up unleashing a spiral of inflation.”

          • Interesting that this article seems to have no author, other than “Bloomberg.”

            Summary says:

            The Fed has tools to fight the next recession. But its options are shrinking, and the efficacy of new approaches is in doubt. People might be wise to expect less help from the central bank the next time the economy goes south.

            I think most of us believe this.

            • As I understand it, it was the central banks’ willingness to work in concert in the previous crisis that was pivotal in averting calamity. In addition to the various forms of stimulus already being somewhat played out, we live in a very different era geo-politically with restless populaces and increasingly protectionist governments.

          • “Others worry it could unleash a spiral of inflation.”

            That is exactly what it would do, and if the amount was sizable enough it would lead to hyperinflation. It has been my opinion for about 7 years, that is how the oil age ends, because that will be the last desperate CB strategic option available.

            • Hyperinflation can only take place if there is an alternative currency circulating within the economic system. In Venezuela there is hyperinflation in the bolivar, but serious contra deflation in the US dollar. You can buy pretty much anything in VZ with a dollar as we did when we went to Bellarus in 1994. ( A box of voda for $1).

              Since the USA has control of the US dollar as a global reserve currency, there is no alternative currency and therefore hyperinflation cannot occur however much money they print. The effect would be for prices to rise but wages would rise equally. My friend Gerry Brady at: has the answers to all this and is worth following as an alternative take on the solutions to GFC2

            • A barrel of oil costs exactly the same today as it did twenty years ago, priced in gold or silver (lawful money). Debt levels have exploded, which will prove lethal.

          • This is an old idea. It was pioneered by Francis Townsend during the Great Depression, and a couple of states actually tried it. It was, of course, a disaster. The appetite of a parasite only grows with the feeding.

            FDR took a different, equally disastrous path: devaluation, debt, and throwing money on unneeded infrastructure. That’s why we talk of a “great depression”, and not “the recession of 1929/1930”

            Hence the modern theory that debt automatically creates the growth needed to repay it, a theory that all history refutes, from the reforms of Diocletian to the Louisiana project of John Law. But as long as some of that new money ends up in the pockets of the economists, the theory will persist.

      • Interesting: whereas in reading about the 19th century -novels, letters, biographies, etc – one always sees references to ‘the 5 per cents’, which were the solid investment of the middle and upper classes.

        From a good return of 5% to diminishing by 5%: Tim Morgan is right – the end of Capitalism.

        • capitalism is the physical manifestation of surplus energy

          300 years ago there was little surplus energy, so a tiny minority held what surplus there was, while the rest laboured to support them (serfdom)

          then for the last 100 years (at most) there was enough surplus energy to provide capital to almost everyone. (fossil fuels)

          now surplus energy is fading away, and what capital there is, is drifting back into the hands of a privileged minority again

          The progression of it is very clearly defined, and inevitable.

          • Our only consolation, Norman, is that wealth truly does send you mad.

            Although we paupers might get to the asylum first…… day release is working quite well for me at the moment.

            • Bezos sending his photos of his privates by email is an illustration. For you or I to do something like that would be foolish, but for a multibillionaire it’s INSANE.

        • What I’m referring to regarding the possible eventuation of hyper inflation is when the usd, the reserve currency hyper inflates. What good will it do Venezuela or any other country if that happens? None.

  1. “Debt ratios of euro-area governments may have fallen in 2018 from a year earlier, but they’re still substantially higher than before the 2008 financial crisis, according to data published Tuesday.
    “Eleven euro-zone countries had debt ratios higher than 60 percent of GDP — the European Union ceiling — with the highest registered in Greece, Italy and Portugal.”

        • If manufacturing costs are raised because of higher carbon taxes, it is more or less a “no brainer” that France will fare worse in the world marketplace. So the decline in business prospects should not be a surprise to anyone.

          • Although Hansen is a proponent of using technology to bring down emissions, a carbon tax, he said, “is the underlying policy required. People need energy, we need to make the price of fossil fuels include their cost to society.
            Hosted by Al Jazeera, the 12-minute debate highlights a growing fault line between two theories of climate action. Among progressives and environmental justice advocates, the Green New Deal represents a last-ditch, economy-wide overhaul. Hansen, on the other hand, seems to argue for a more economically incremental approach that is centered on a carbon tax.

            That tension came to a head when Hansen appeared visibly aggravated by the progressive proposal and Prakash, realizing that one of the most prominent climate scientists in the world was scoffing at her organization’s central focus, could only laugh in disbelief.
            Dr. Hansen stated the New Green Deal is “nonsense”.
            Seems you are correct, Gail, there is no solution…😋

        • Gail, I agree. We do not have a problem, which can be solved; we are trapped in a predicament, which can only be lived through. If we are very, very lucky, which I cannot bring myself to believe.

      • the Italians, much like everyone else, remain convinced that if they spend enough money their prosperity will return and the nation will prosper again

        this is the advice they give themselves, because they cannot accept the alternative

  2. “Fierce fighting intensified in the Libyan capital, Tripoli, leading to the death of more than 254 people and the injury of 1,228 others, but the cost of these battles may trespass Libya borders, causing serious consequences for neighbouring Tunisia.

    “Tunisia, which shares a 500 kilometre border with Libya, is wary of the consequences of a second-week of fighting after the retired General Khalifa Haftar launched a military operation on 4 April to take control of the city.”

  3. Argentina’s embattled president Mauricio Macri is a Peronista now.

    With elections six months away and an economy in the gutter, Macri is bringing in Peron-style policies to win over voters who have faced four years of declining fortunes under his presidency. The economy looks a lot like it did in 1989 and again in 2001, both terrible years for Argentine presidents and Argentina bondholders. Macri is pulling out all the stops to make sure his presidency, and his economy, does not suffer the same terrible fate.

    Seems we are grasping at straws


    European officials as well as UN-backed leadership in Tripoli have both confirmed and angrily denounced President Trump’s recent sharp reversal of longstanding US policy which recognized only the UN-backed Government of National Accord (GNA) as the legitimate authority over Libya, with Fayez al-Sarraj as president. The UN, UK and others have long backed Sarraj, while the UAE, Egypt, and France have been vocal supporters of Haftar.

    Late last week the White House had shocked European allies in announcing that President Trump had spoken by phone to offer support to Benghazi based commander Kalifa Haftar, at a moment his Libyan National Army (LNA) lays siege to the capital.

    The White House statement at the time said Trump “recognized Field Marshal Haftar’s significant role in fighting terrorism and securing Libya’s oil resources, and the two discussed a shared vision for Libya’s transition to a stable, democratic political system.”

    A prior personal call to Haftar by US National Security Adviser John Bolton had also left Haftar with the impression that he’d had a “green light” for his ongoing offensive to secure the capital, which began April 4, and has involved shelling and air power used over civilian areas.

    I wonder what the plan is with this and the sudden announcement for suspending Iranian oil import sanction waivers.

  5. “South Korea’s economy unexpectedly shrank in the first quarter, marking its worst performance since the global financial crisis, as government spending failed to keep up the previous quarter’s strong pace and as companies slashed investment.

    “The shock contraction reinforced financial market views that the central bank is likely to make a U-turn on policy, shifting to an easing stance and possibly cutting interest rates to counter declining business confidence and growing external risks…

    “None of the economists surveyed in a Reuters poll had expected growth to contract. The median forecast was for a rise of 0.3 percent.”

  6. “Beneath the electioneering bubble of sound bites and choreographed photo opportunities lies an economic governance nightmare… For 72 hours from 26 March 2019, South Africa stood at the edge of economic collapse as Eskom ran out of money and could not meet its liabilities and obligations. A scramble to raise money ensued as government cannot allow an economic collapse by Eskom default.”

    • If it is not one thing that goes wrong, it is another.

      There was an article not long ago called Tainted US shale oil is being turned away by Asian buyers.

      As various types of crude pass through the supply chain from inland shale fields spanning Texas to North Dakota, they risk picking up impurities before reaching Asia — the world’s biggest oil-consuming region. Specifically, refiners are worried about the presence of problematic metals as well as a class of chemical compounds known as oxygenates, which can affect the quality and type of fuel they produce.

      Two refiners in South Korea — the top buyer of U.S. seaborne supply — have rejected cargoes in recent months due to contamination that makes processing difficult. Growing North American output from dozens of fields pushes everything from highly-volatile oil to sticky residue through shared tributaries and trunk pipes. Smaller carriers then take cargoes from shallow-water ports to giant supertankers in the Gulf of Mexico for hauling to far-away buyers.

      Throughout its transit from pipes to tanks and onto vessels, foreign compounds from other fuel or chemicals for cleaning tanks or stabilizing material can leach into the supply and foul up refining equipment. While crude passes through a similar chain in the Middle East too, the risk of impurities is lower because each oil variety typically has its own designated infrastructure.

      Basically, now we are trying to put such a range of stuff through pipelines that pollution gets to be a problem.

  7. Poor Bill McKibben. Feel so sorry for this fella. So lost about the real situation we are facing regarding CC. Now, this comes from a former activist. His latest interview excerpt from “The Nation”

    BM: The answer to that is really interesting, I think. Yes there’s money to be made in the next energy future. People are going to get rich putting up solar panels. But there’s not Exxon-scale money to be made. If you think about it for a minute, you’ll realize why: Once you get the solar panels up on the roof, the energy comes for free. The sun rises every morning. From Exxon’s point of view, that’s the stupidest business model you could imagine. They’ve spent 100 years charging people more every month for what they get.

    So they’ve tried everything they can to beat back the rise of renewable energy and the utilities. Eventually they’re going to lose. The price of wind and sun just keeps dropping and dropping. It’s now the cheapest way in the world to generate an electron. And that’s eroding the fossil-fuel company’s power slowly. “Slowly,” however, is a problem—because we need it now to go quickly. Fifty years from now we’re going to run the world on sun and wind. The question is, is it going to be a completely broken world that we’re running on sun and wind, or will we have made the transition in time to avert the absolute-worst-possible outcomes? We’re already going to be in some trouble. There’s no stopping global warming. That’s not one of the options on the menu. But there may be still some opportunity to slow it down.

    Too bad he hasn’t been a reader here and faced the reality of the true energy expenditure of wind and solar. At this stage, why bring it to his attention. It might be too much for the man to realize he wasted 30 years of his life devoted to this cause. Oh well, the tragedy of existence!

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