Cassandra Ugo Bardi and the Philosophy of Less
Ugo Bardi is a member of ASPO Italy and has written books about resource depletion. And on top of that since March 2011 he maintains a blog named Cassandra Legacy. Browsing through his earlier entries it is obvious that Bardi is not afraid to use the word ‘collapse’.
Yet two days ago he posted an article on his blog that seems to contradict his earlier concern:
With the ongoing collapse of the oil prices, we can say that it is game over for the oil and gas industry, in particular for the production of “tight” (or “shale”) oil and gas. Prices may still go back to reasonably high levels, in the future, but the industry will never be able to regain the momentum that had made its US supporters claim “energy independence” and “centuries of abundance.” The bubble may not burst all of a sudden, but it surely will deflate… I think we can identify at least three different strategies for the future: 1) more of the same (oil and gas) 2) a push to nuclear, and 3) a push for renewables. Let’s see to examine what the future may have in store for us…
3. A big push for renewables. Surprisingly, the renewable industry may have serious chances to take over from a senescent oil industry, leaving the nuclear industry standing still and gasping at the sight. The progress in renewable technology, especially in photovoltaic cells, has been simply fantastic during the past decade (see, e.g., the recent MIT report). We have now a set of methods for producing electric power that can compete with traditional sources, watt for watt, dollar for dollar. Consider that the most efficient of these technologies do not need critically rare materials and that none brings the strategic and security problem of nuclear. Finally, consider that it has been shown (Sgouridis, Bardi, and Csala) that the present renewable technology could take over from the current sources fast enough to prevent major damage from climate change.
It looks like we have a winner, right? Indeed, the atmosphere around renewables is one of palpable optimism. If renewable energy picks up enough momentum, there will be nothing able to stop it until it has catapulted all of us, willing or not, into a new (and cleaner) world.
There is a problem, though. The renewable industry is still tiny in comparison to the nuclear industry and especially in comparison to the oil and gas industry. And we know that might usually wins against right. The sheer financial power of the traditional energy industry may well be enough to abort the change before it becomes unstoppable. Something wicked may still come……. (*)
Editor: we started our blog nine months later than Bardi started his and we have arrived at the same conclusion as he does: in principle there is no long term energy problem. Renewables can for 100% replace fossil fuel as an energy source. And in all likelihood there is enough fossil fuel left to set up this new renewable energy infrastructure. Creating 10-15 solar panels per household is less of an effort than producing a car for said household and far less costly and lasts 30 years, so what’s the problem? Our focus of concern has moved away from energy problems towards geopolitical transition and risk of war, financial instability and multicultural destabilization.
EXTRACTED says that we are reaching the limits of economically feasible extraction of a number of mineral commodities, including metals and fossil fuels, as while the world will never run out of its minerals, extracting them will prove far more expensive, making their everyday use unfeasible. Instead, we must meticulously manage what is left and use renewables to generate energy. We need to close the industrial cycle, recover the minerals used and transform our approach to resources.
Ugi Bardi’s speech during the hearing “EU Energy Security Strategy under the conditions of the Internal Energy Market” organized by ITRE Committee (Industry, research, energy) at the European Parliament, Brussels 2014-11-5. Bardi is professor of Chemistry at the University of Florence and he is past chair and cofounder of Aspo Italia, the Italian association for the study of peak oil.