If we are serious about greenhouse gas emissions then the only way forward is to realize we need 10x more energy even with the best energy efficiency technology employed globally. And then plan fossil fuel consumption accordingly. But then we have 10x the energy need while we need 10x less ghg emissions long term! I think we will find that in such a future world, we may only use (10% of 10% =) 1% fossil fuels to stay within long term acceptable ghg emissions limits. It is such a drastic reduction that we really need to think about zero carbon economies. CCS with 90% efficiency will not be good enough. It will need to be 99% efficient. Solar and wind grids with 30% natural gas backup will not be acceptable. They will have to be 98% solar and wind and 2% natural gas.
Once you look at those futures it is clear that wind and solar and CCS can’t cut the mustard. They are unacceptable greenhouse gas emitters…
Hence in my opinion such technologies are part of the global energy problem (except for niche uses), not part of the solution.
With sufficiently cheap energy, pollution would become a thing of the past; at current levels of energy usage, this is impractical. Most of our species is still locked in the subsistence-agriculture trap, and simply extending the First World system of coal- and petroleum-fueled industrialism to them would probably destroy the planet.
This knowledge is the specter at the feast of progress, now that Western civilization is overcoming the self-inflicted wound of 1914 and its consequences. The so-called "soft" path is nothing more than a return to the animalistic misery of pre-industrial times; sunlight is simply too diffuse to maintain even the present level of consumption. Hard, concentrated energy is the essential prerequisite for an economy like ours; conservation and increased efficiency merely delay the problem without solving it. Restricting growth means a boot in the face of the world's have-nots; a tiny island of comfort on a swelling mound of resentful pain; eventually it means impovershing everyone.
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