These days the media are full of stories about people setting targets to “decarbonize” the energy sources fueling their societies. Some are claiming (and some have failed notoriously) to achieve zero carbon electrification. We should take a deep breath, step back and rationally consider what is being discussed and proposed.
The History of Energy Transitions
Thanks to Bill Gates we have this helpful graph showing the progress of human civilization resulting from shifts in the mix of energy sources.
Before the 19th century, it is all biomass, especially wood. Some historians think that the Roman Empire collapsed partly because the cost of importing firewood from the far territories exceeded the benefits. More recently, the 1800’s saw the rise of coal and the industrial revolution and a remarkable social transformation, along of course with issues of mining and urban pollution. The 20th century is marked first by the discovery and use…
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