This is a question many of us have asked over the last three decades.
In fact, what would happen if energy were free may even seem like a paradox. To the extent that we have created and maintained the systems in our society – from transport to computers to electricity and water use – our systems are all dependent on fossil fuels, nuclear weapons and hydrocarbon extraction. But we live in a free society.
There may be many reasons, but a free society will be a society which has less dependence on fossil fuels, nuclear weapons and hydrocarbon extraction.
Many people have tried to look ahead to alternative energy sources over the decades. The great promise of alternative energy sources such as solar, wind and hydrogen is great, but it is unclear if they would be able to replace the fossil energy sources that provide more than half of the world’s energy, and which is the main reason the world is running so much more than normal daily demand.
It’s certainly possible – and it hasn’t been tried yet – to reduce the demand for fossil fuels over the next century, by getting to a point at which alternative sources of energy are cheaper than fossil fuels. Even so, if world energy demand remains at or above its current level, the world is in trouble. All of us have to make a choice, with no single explanation or argument given for our choices. We all make choices about what to eat on an ongoing, global scale as we eat at home and in restaurants. The choices can be political, or practical. As a consumer, you can make a choice based on price. You can find a better bargain. You can go back to the same place when you reach your tipping point. You can work for less, not more. In the same way we are all affected by the price of energy, we are all affected by the environmental damage the planet is doing to the atmosphere, to the ocean, to life in its myriad forms.
If we don’t make our choices today, we will all be eating less and using less energy in the first years of the century, and as time passes we will all begin to pay more, and that in turn will lead to more energy in more ways, even if the total energy output of the world doesn’t change. As a society the choices we make will affect our health, our environment and our society, and they will change the whole way we live, and our world. It’s worth contemplating those choices as we move away from fossil fuels.
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