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Chapter 6. ProposalsResources

Ending the Energy Crisis

Vision 5: Natural resources are available for us and future generations. Resource taxes are raised so prices will reflect the real costs of products and the depletion of ecosystems is prevented. Finite energy sources will also be taxed so abundant renewable energy will become universally available.

The energy crisis can probably be solved, actually quite easily. There are solutions for how to deal with the two main problems: finding physical sources for acquiring the energy for an increasing global population, and creating political momentum in an arena dominated by powerful oil company lobbies.

So what to do? Use less energy or find different sources? Probably both, but with food production being dependent on energy in numerous ways finding new sources is a necessity.

Jeremy Rifkin has been pointing out solutions to government leaders ranging from the White House to a number of European, African and Asian countries. His solutions seem very possible and smart. His unique approach lies in joining practical, physical solutions with sound political strategies into a grand narrative of what he calls a Third Industrial Revolution.

Renewable energy is becoming cheap enough, and distributed production is making it accessible. That’s his main argument. Just as the internet made information cheap and abundant, an intelligent energy distribution network can disclose renewable energy sources.

Rifkin’s narrative is this: both historical Industrial Revolutions happened because new energy technology converged with new communication technologies.[1] The next Industrial Revolution is similar: the new technologies of solar, wind, water, geoheat and biomass are converging with the development of intelligent means of distribution in the form of internet-like smart grids.

This transition is supported by five pillars, Rifkin argues: renewable energy, buildings as small power plants, hydrogen and other storing technologies, smart distribution grids and plug-in and fuel cell transport. These pillars are intimately related and reinforce each other in a synergetic way. “When these five pillars come together, they make up an indivisible technological platform – an emergent system whose properties and functions are qualitatively different from the sum of its parts”.[2]

How does Rifkin overcome the power of the strong oil companies’ lobby? By proposing buildings as power plants. The construction industry is a strong economic factor that might be “a counterweight to the big energy companies”.[3]

In Europe, his ideas have a strong following. A declaration was signed by the EU endorsing the implementation of Jeremy’s ideas.

The idea of this Third Industrial Revolution seems quite solid. And there is a strong argument in favor of trying: the stakes are unimaginably high. When such a transition from carbon into renewable energy isn’t made, CO2 induced climate change might lead to mass extinction strongly decreasing the chances of survival for us and generations to come.

  1. [1]These were steam power with the printing press in the first, and electrical communication with oil powered engines in the second industrial revolution. See Rifkin 2011: 35.
  2. [2]Rifkin 2011: 71
  3. [3]Rifkin 2011: 44