Energy is a key factor that drives the economy. It is clear from the available data that an “energy transition” is in progress: we are facing more and more difficult times in maintaining the current system based on fossil fuels.
This paper takes a ‘long-view’ of this transition, from Jevons’ ‘The Coal Question’ (1866), via the seminal The Limits to Growth studies, IPCC findings on climate change, and the recent increased understanding the implications of energy return on energy invested (EROI) of the fuels we use.
The main ongoing trends the paper examines include: World production of oil and gas; production of other minerals, agriculture’s energy problem, the difficulties faced by nuclear fuels, the rapid increases in renewable energy production, and the gains being made in energy efficiency, both in production, and in the end-uses of energy.
The paper makes a strong case for the role of science and technology in helping to smooth this energy transition; and for the need for better models. The paper concludes that if we can sufficiently take into account the technological, economic and systemic factors required to manage the energy transition, we will be able to arrive at a better, cleaner and more equitable future.[Note: This article is a modified and updated version of an article originally published in Frontiers in Energy Resources. (Bardi U. The grand challenge of the energy transition. Energy Res., 29 August 2013; doi: 10.3389/fenrg.2013.00002.)]
Bardi, U. (2015) The Grand Challenge of the Energy Transition. The Oil Age 1 (2) 1-12.
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