The End for Fossil Fuels is Necessary & Should be In-View

by Duane Nichols on September 3, 2019

Ray Kurzweil, well known futurist and inventor

For Fossil Fuels, Evidence of the End is Mounting

Editorial from the Concord Monitor, Concord, Mass., August 29, 2019

Last week, BNP Paribas, the world’s eighth largest bank, announced that it is ending all investment in fossil fuels.

“We conclude that the economics of oil for gasoline and diesel vehicles versus wind and solar-powered EVs (electric vehicles) are now in relentless and irreversible decline, with far-reaching implications for both policymakers and the oil majors,” Paribas said in its announcement.

Is the bank right, and how soon might the transition happen?

Ray Kurzweil, futurist and inventor of the flatbed scanner, the first print-to-speech machine, a musical synthesizer and more, made many predictions, including this one in 2001: “We won’t experience 100 years of progress in the 21st century, it will be more like 20,000 years of progress (at today’s rate).”

Technological progress proceeds at an exponential rate as new tools like artificial intelligence create even better tools quickly, Kurzweil said.

The batting average of the former MIT professor, now director of engineering for Google, is good. Trackers say that 115 of the 147 predictions Kurzweil has made since the 1990s have proven to be essentially accurate.

If Kurzweil is even half right, technological change and its impact on the world’s economies, the nature of work, advances in medicine and alternative energy will occur far faster than most people and policymakers realize.

The pace of climate change is also proceeding far faster than scientists expected, and the race between technologies that will slow climate change and the continued or even increased burning of fossil fuels is happening on many fronts.

The fires burning in the Amazon rainforest – the lungs of the planet – are being set largely by farmers and cattle ranchers bent on expansion. The planet is home to nearly 1 billion cows, each of whom makes multiple contributions to climate change daily. Meanwhile alternatives to meat are multiplying, improving and winning consumer favor at a rate that alarms the beef industry.

Word is that Concord’s Burger King restaurants are selling as many plant-based Impossible Whoppers as beef Whoppers.

And a spokesman for German automaker Volkswagen said, earlier this month, that the day when its electric vehicles reach price parity with internal combustion vehicles is only a few years away.

The tipping point that slides gas and diesel vehicles toward history’s trash heap is approaching. Charging stations will replace gas stations.

Reinhard Fischer, head of strategy for Volkswagen in North America, told attendees at the Center for Automotive Research in Detroit this month that range anxiety has now been replaced by charging anxiety.

“A hundred years ago, gasoline was sold at pharmacies,” Fischer said. “Today we have 122,000 gas stations in the United States. It’s transformed from a bottleneck to a commodity. Electric charging is going to be exactly the same.”

When it comes to transportation, to compete with energy from solar and wind power, according to the French bank Paribas’s analysis, “the long-term break-even price for oil for gasoline to remain competitive as a source of mobility is $9 to $10 per barrel and for diesel $17 to $19 per barrel.”

After bouncing around in the $60 range, yesterday’s price for a barrel of crude was $55.68.

The lower the price goes the less it makes sense to drill for oil in the Alaskan wilderness and other environmentally sensitive places. The faster meat alternatives replace beef the less need for the slash-and-burn agriculture that worsens climate change and threatens the survival of many of the Earth’s species.

Let’s hope Paribas, Volkswagen and Kurzweil are right.

{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Mary Wildfire September 4, 2019 at 10:27 am

There are some holes in this thesis that you could drive a starship through. Mostly, the assumption that “progress” is inevitable and good. This is actually a RELIGIOUS belief.

John Michael Greer talks a lot about this, how progress is the central myth of our civilization. I call this emerging religion androtheism, the believe that Man is God (and no, I don’t mean Humanity–this is a very male trip).

Technophilia is a key tenet of this religion; when Kurzweil talking about inevitable and speeding progress he is talking about nothing but technology (not, say, social progress). Regardless of whether he’s right that it’s developing as fast as he claims, the bigger question is in his assumption that all tech development is good (he never directly says so because he considers it a bedrock assumption).

But the reality is that life for the average human has gotten worse, made more superficial, more anxious, more alienated and atomised. Life for the average mammal, meanwhile, has CEASED, as much of the population of most other species has been replaced by ever expanding human flesh, and that of our livestock.

Quite a lot of the lovely new electronic technology developed in the past decade is used to track and spy on and manipulate virtually everyone — motivated, perhaps, by the reality that there are too many humans, the impossibility of doing anything about it within the current “democratic” paradigm, and the reality that the increasing wealth of the 1% and especially the .0001% is reaching an end-point, where explosion can be expected.

Perhaps ours is the first civilizations whose elite, in the collpase stage, can prevent uprisings because despite the huge population, they already know who all the leaders are and what their plans are and can simply send drones around to kill them, and to crush any flame of revolt before it can grow.

Meanwhile we still have disease, and plague grows more likely; we still have hunger, and major famines are almost certainly inevitable, especially with climate change which is fairly certain to destroy this marvelous civilization; and we have not abolished nuclear weapons but are busy building a new generation of them.

Yeah, it sure is great to be living in a time of tremendous PROGRESS, isn’t it?

Mary Wildfire, Roane County, WV

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