Unimpressed by the climate policies on offer for Australia’s upcoming election? You need to read Chris Goodall’s book with the above title. The Executive Summary? Shifting from the ‘shackles of fossil fuel dependence’ to a low-carbon economy, is just like the transition from VHS to DVD. Kind-of.
To Be Specific
Chris actually notes at the book’s beginning, the transition away from fossil fuels should never be expected to be anything but immensely difficult, nothing at all like shifting from VHS to DVD. The last century of industrialised oil burning has an enormous infrastructure built up around it, and it will take a long, long time before we are able to shift away from it. That said, he does manage to paint a compelling picture of how we could successfully combine new technologies and a variety of energy reduction initiatives. That anyone can write a book in this arena, and come off sounding even vaguely optimistic, is commendable in itself.
The list can probably be guessed, but Goodall’s skill is in usefully framing the technologies and the problems surrounding their more widespread implementation, while noting realistic limits and expectations. Wind and solar take up the first two chapters, and while success stories are pointed to ( Denmark gathers 20% of it’s electricity from the wind, concentrated solar power techniques are improving energy gains using more accessible technologies than photovoltaics), he also mentions that even in a best case scenario they will still supplement rather than replace fossil fuels.
From where else? The ocean ( tides, waves, currents, temperature differences ). From our homes ( fuel cells, and micro generators of power that allow us to harness the heat too, instead of losing most of it at power plants ). From savings within super-efficient homes and electric cars. Motor fuels from cellulose – which means land battles ahoy ( 600 million cars competing for the food needs of 6.6 billion people), though potentially combined with carbon sequestering ( burying carbon ) in ways that both improve soil and food yields, as well as reduce carbon footprints. Reforestation gets a shout out too, for the potential to soak up carbon.
Goodall explains in his epilogue why he didn’t include nuclear power stations (bad economics), geoengineering ( need to research but not prioritise now )and energy efficiency ( not really a technology ) in his list of technologies, and manages to end on a note of optimism.
See also: Carbon Commentary, a site run by Chris aiming to be ‘a critical appraisal of issues in a move to a low-carbon economy’.