If as White’s law states, the energy available to a society correlates to the economy and development of that society: “culture evolves as the amount of energy harnessed per capita per year is increased, or as the efficiency of the instrumental means of putting the energy to work is increased”, then it is clear that we need to maintain our level of available energy or increase our efficiency as energy supply falls. Remember too that energy cannot be created or destroyed, it simply moves from high to low eventually dissipating as heat.
It is why peak oil is so important and why governments scrabble to exploit every available source they can, but their short-sightedness simply puts back the inevitable by a a few years. The world cannot go on extracting fossil fuels and must learn to live with renewable energy, be it from wind, solar, plants or wherever, but unless renewables replace current energy levels our economy will shrink.
Indeed, it is highly unlikely that renewable can match current energy consumption but we can become more efficient, i.e. use less energy. What we can’t do is continue to grow the economy by every increasing energy inputs and the lack of growth will be the thing that causes economists, mainstream politicians and the media to develop apoplexy.
Primarily because our economy is not just built on energy but is built to require growth. Interest rates drive the need for growth and shareholders require returns from their investments so that all companies need to make a profit, capitalism at is core is a need for more, a need for greed. The current, capitalist, narrative is all about growth at a time that we need to shrink.
How do we shrink? Personally and as a society without complete collapse?