I am reading but have not yet finished Alice Friedemann’s excellent book When Trucks Stop Running: Energy and the Future of Transportation.
Here are a couple interviews with the author discussing her book.
When contemplating the depletion of affordable non-renewable fossil energy it seems that transportation will be the most important casualty.
We can survive without cars, long distance vacations, and Asia manufactured clothing, housewares, and electronics, but most people cannot survive without the food produced and delivered by tractors, combines, trucks, trains, and ships.
It might be possible to revert to wind powered ships, and to electrify some of the train system, but there is no viable substitute for diesel powered trucks.
Some locales with good soil, adequate rainfall, and low population densities will be able to feed themselves with locally grown food produced with human labor. Most will not.
Today Allan Stromfeldt Christensen published an excellent review of Friedemann’s book.
Here are Christensen’s concluding remarks. Note that the core of his conclusion revolves around denial of reality.
Friedemann suggests in summation that rather than waste the fossil fuels we’ve got left on attempting to build out systems that won’t have much of a shelf life, we’d be much better off using that fossil energy to convert away from industrial agriculture, to build passive solar houses and buildings, maintain and upgrade domestic waterway transportation infrastructure as well as other low-energy systems.
Regardless, no PR agency, or energy lobbyist, or charlatan is going to be content with letting Friedemann get away with the last word here. For as was mentioned in the passage of hers I quoted earlier:
“W]hen scientists find [uncomfortable facts], they are ignored and called pessimists, no matter how solid their findings. For every one of their peer-reviewed papers, there are thousands of positive press releases with breakthroughs that never pan out…”
And you know what that means, right?
Elon Musk just announced the unveiling of the Tesla Semi truck!! And it’s “Seriously next level”!!
Okay, okay, I don’t mean to say that the latest MuskMobile will “never pan out”, just that Concordes generally necessitate too much energy to make them viable without significant subsidies of one sort or another. And that isn’t to say that there’s anything inherently wrong with subsidies either, just that while Friedemann also points out that “it is energy, not money, that fuels society”, it is also energy, not money, that fuels subsidies (money is after all a proxy for energy, as I’ve previously written).
In other words, using energy to subsidize energy probably isn’t much of a viable long-term plan, but it can certainly score you the starring role as the latest messiah in this age of optimism being valued over facts.