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.
 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.