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Author Topic: Was the sucess of fossil fuels based on power and the ability to dominate?  (Read 1760 times)

Offline Karsten

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I read the other day a quote  in Tom Friedman's book "Hot, Flat, and Crowded" that said (I am paraphrasing here): "The stone age did not end because we ran out of stones". Implied seems to be, that even though stones were still around in large numbers, the stone tools were replaced with a better material (bronze?) and similarly fossil fuels can be replaced before we actually run out.

I believe the decision to replace stone was based on power over enemies and because the new material created greater success and comfort (=better hunting). It had nothing to do with sustainability or pollution as the decision to end the use of fossil fuels before we run out would have to be.

I wonder: Can fossil fuels be replaced with cleaner energies BEFORE we find a resource that gives us as much power over our adversaries or increases our abilities that can be compared to the power and benefits bronze and iron tools gave their owners over stone tools? Will we switch away from fossil fuels and begin using cleaner and more sustainable sources of energy that clearly have less power for nations and individuals? Will humans accept current renewable energies to power everything even if we cannot operate our military or our comfortable lives with it as well as with fossil fuels? If it is about ability to dominate, how do we make cleaner energies more attractive?

Your thoughts?


 

Offline swansont

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That's an insightful premise.  The success of fossil fuels is from a combination of energy density, ease of use and transportability, but I think all these tie into economics.  Historically fossil fuels have been cheap and widely available.  Alternatives have lacked one or the other, and we have not placed any other value on their use (i.e. "clean" has not been a major factor in the decision).  So you have the options of shifting the value somehow, so that pollution/carbon emissions and any other concerns are taken into account, or the alternatives fit the criteria of being as cheap and as widely available.  In other words, they have to become better than fossil fuels in the ways that are important to the users, just as with bronze vs stone.  One path is to make fossil fuels less economically attractive, as some countries do with high taxes, which makes alternatives more attractive.
 

Offline Don_1

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For all it's evils, I don't think oil, or the lack of it, will make any real difference to the world balance of power. England managed to acquire the greatest empire the world had ever seen without the benefit of oil. Acquiring the benefits of oil didn't help us keep the empire though.
 

Offline Karsten

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For all it's evils, I don't think oil, or the lack of it, will make any real difference to the world balance of power. England managed to acquire the greatest empire the world had ever seen without the benefit of oil. Acquiring the benefits of oil didn't help us keep the empire though.

Would you say that England lost its power because other countries were able to use the power of fossil fuels on a more massive scale? Can countries become (or stay) powerful on a global scale if they say good-bye to fossil fuels while others do not?
 

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