Claim: Fossil fuels could be phased out worldwide in a decade, says new study

The media release is below.

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Fossil fuels could be phased out worldwide in a decade, says new study
UNIVERSITY OF SUSSEX

The worldwide reliance on burning fossil fuels to create energy could be phased out in a decade, according to an article published by a major energy think tank in the UK.

Professor Benjamin Sovacool, Director of the Sussex Energy Group at the University of Sussex, believes that the next great energy revolution could take place in a fraction of the time of major changes in the past.

But it would take a collaborative, interdisciplinary, multi-scalar effort to get there, he warns. And that effort must learn from the trials and tribulations from previous energy systems and technology transitions.

In a paper published in the peer-reviewed journal Energy Research & Social Science, Professor Sovacool analyses energy transitions throughout history and argues that only looking towards the past can often paint an overly bleak and unnecessary picture.

Moving from wood to coal in Europe, for example, took between 96 and 160 years, whereas electricity took 47 to 69 years to enter into mainstream use.

But this time the future could be different, he says – the scarcity of resources, the threat of climate change and vastly improved technological learning and innovation could greatly accelerate a global shift to a cleaner energy future.

The study highlights numerous examples of speedier transitions that are often overlooked by analysts. For example, Ontario completed a shift away from coal between 2003 and 2014; a major household energy programme in Indonesia took just three years to move two-thirds of the population from kerosene stoves to LPG stoves; and France’s nuclear power programme saw supply rocket from four per cent of the electricity supply market in 1970 to 40 per cent in 1982.

Each of these cases has in common strong government intervention coupled with shifts in consumer behaviour, often driven by incentives and pressure from stakeholders.

Professor Sovacool says: “The mainstream view of energy transitions as long, protracted affairs, often taking decades or centuries to occur, is not always supported by the evidence.

“Moving to a new, cleaner energy system would require significant shifts in technology, political regulations, tariffs and pricing regimes, and the behaviour of users and adopters.

“Left to evolve by itself – as it has largely been in the past – this can indeed take many decades. A lot of stars have to align all at once.

“But we have learnt a sufficient amount from previous transitions that I believe future transformations can happen much more rapidly.”

In sum, although the study suggests that the historical record can be instructive in shaping our understanding of macro and micro energy transitions, it need not be predictive.

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14 thoughts on “Claim: Fossil fuels could be phased out worldwide in a decade, says new study”

  1. When France built their nuclear reactors in the 70s, there was infinitely less interference on the program from various actors, especially no year-long tractations because you are endangering the territory of some undefined frog or bug by building there.
    The program was well managed, with all reactors being of the same design (actually 2 : original (900 MW) and improved (1350 MW), but very similar), resulting in tremendous savings in building, maintenance and training.
    Totally impossible now : we have an airport project near Nantes still under consideration because of some wetland encroachment after 30 years…

  2. 10 yrs seems extremely unlikely but I could see it happening within 30 with concerted effort and some moderate breakthroughs.

  3. This “professor” is both arrogant and ignorant. He is missing two key ingredients in order to accomplish what he is proposing. First, in every instance he states the new technology existed prior to its acceptance. Second, the change brought actual economic, societal, and individual benefits. The same is true of other technological advancements that gained acceptance in record times, for example television, the PC, and the smart phone; all of which were accepted at a faster and faster rate. This is the data that has confused this ignorant man.

    What he proposes would be quickly accepted if it offered significant economic, societal, and individual benefits, and was technologically feasible. In fact, humanity has been searching for a cheap (free), unlimited energy source for centuries and many charlatans have made fortunes convincing a gullible public that they have created a process to provide unlimited, cheap energy; they are essentially the modern age alchemists. In addition, myths abound that suggest that major gasoline companies have purchased these developments and then buried the research to protect their businesses.

    However, what he suggests is not possible because there is currently no solution to the energy storage problem and most of our ways of creating energy have disastrous, and unintended, environmental consequences; wind, solar, and ethanol are not now, nor will ever be the final solution.

    In fact, nature is much better at storing energy for future use than we will ever be in the foreseeable future. And, it is just these, nature provided, inexpensive, energy sources that has brought civilization to the level we now experience; at least western civilization. The stupidity of our influence peddlers is refusing to allow the under developed countries to take advantage of these inexpensive, essentially unlimited, nature provided energy sources, resulting in tens of millions deaths annually. The ones who are making these short-sided decisions will have a lot to answer for when they meet their maker.

    Returning to the subject at hand, two things are needed to accomplish his goal: 1) a safe, efficient, effective way of producing enough energy to meet the energy needs of the world for the next century or two, and, 2) a safe, efficient, effective way to transport and store that energy for future use. Not only do neither of these currently exist, but both need major technological breakthroughs in order to become feasible. It is impossible to determine when (or if) the technological breakthroughs will ever happen. Essentially, his pronouncement is no more valid than the existence of the tooth fairy.

  4. I continue to be amazed at the total lack of reality about moving to ALL non-fossil fuel energy. I suspect that these folks have no clue about how the military (and commercial, actually) would use windmills and solar panels to power an F-35 or even a 777. These same folks also hate atomic energy so, unless they assume we can power all our machines with ground up beetles and rose petals, we would be without any means of air travel , at the very least.
    This is another insane hypocrisy from the folks who drive to work, fly to meetings, and assume that sustainable energy can be used for everything. Wars have been won and lost over the availability of fossil fuels to power the war machines and this proclamation from a “professor” who is obviously in la la land illustrates the complete lack of scientific/practical understanding of such folks.

  5. Well, professor dufous, it is highly doubtful, but it may be possible to dupe enough dopes to be able to sincerely engage in ” a collaborative, interdisciplinary, multi-scalar effort”. But if success is achieved in that part, then comes the hard part, the part that is not in doubt. Even if it is possible to evangelize enough true believers, regardless, it will not be possible to amend, modify or otherwise override the fundamental laws of physics that are the inhibitors preventing the existence of your fantasy supernatural power sources. Not in this Universe, at least.

    Sorry, pal. I think you have a really appealing idea but it just ain’t gonna happen.

    It must be assumed that we, humankind, are facing a problem for which there will never be a desirable solution. And I hesitate to even categorize it as a problem since there is no answer.

  6. As a matter of fact, with the present trends in energy policyin Great Britain this is going to happen very soon. That is because the present regime is very efficiently phasing out British industry by letting energy prices shoot over the roof, and when that is done, nobody can live there any more. Then both fossile and other fuels are phased out.

  7. TANSTAAFL.

    So stop looking and make your peace with the demon of your choice or go back to running around naked eating fruits and nuts and dying at about 35 years old.

    Sovacool seems to have a problem with his math and logic.

    (And just for the record, every time I see the words “peer-reviewed” I think, “Okay… here comes the AGW Bullshit” since they seem to be the only people who give a crap about “peer review” – the rest of the scientific community being content to let their findings stand or fall based on provability, not the opinions of other morons.)

    So back to Sovacool – who states, “the next great energy revolution could take place in a fraction of the time of major changes in the past” He then mentions “wood to coal” as one energy source change – which they are but the transition from wood to coal takes a lot longer than 160 years, then he goes on to assume a transition to electricity as being another energy source transition, when to get electricity the process is mostly still burning wood or coal. So sorry, bozo – no advance/transition of energy source there. You’re still burning wood to get energy, complete with all the byproducts.

    Then he goes to Kerosene and LPG – which are WHAT? Yep… biodegraded WOOD! (and other carbon sources – trees, dogs, people, etc.) So yeah… virtually ALL of his energy sources are what? Yep – Carbon.

    When he finally actually makes a REAL shift in energy source (nuclear) he blathers about “cleaner energy”. Ummmm cleaner? Tell it to the people in Chernobyl, TMI, and Fukushima. Personally I’d rather clean up the mess from an out-of-control coal fire than a nuke fire.

    Then he just dribbles off and ends up saying nothing of importance, or of logical consequence.

    So what we see here is an AGW “scientist” who has serious difficulties with his logical faculties and the underlying truths of his examples – ie he has trouble dealing with the real world.

    Professor? Might I suggest you return to first form and learn how to first formulate a position, then logically present it? You have done neither here. Thus this article is exactly where it belongs – in a junk science web page.

  8. @nofluer the risk of non nuclear related disasters far outweighs those of a nuclear one per kw/h generated. I love my nuke electricity in france. Still paying among the lowest consumer price per kw/h and still no reactor exploded yet in the last half century.

    France derives about 75% of its electricity from nuclear energy, due to a long-standing policy based on energy security.
    France is the world’s largest net exporter of electricity due to its very low cost of generation, and gains over €3 billion per year from this.
    France has been very active in developing nuclear technology. Reactors and fuel products and services are a major export.
    It is building its first Generation III reactor.
    About 17% of France’s electricity is from recycled nuclear fuel.

    Taking into account that most of the reactors in france are of the oldest design one can safely say that with the few worldwide disasters that weren’t nuclear is the cheapest, safest and most reliable form of power generation. In the end, only direct matter/energy conversion delivers the most.
    All other forms are roundabout ways with inherent efficiency losses.
    The only thing now we need to do is get rid of the absurd safety regulations where an inland earthquake safe reactor has to adopt the same safety regulations as an earthquake/tsunami risk reactor.

    E is still MC2 which makes all matter/energy conversions the preferable means to get energy out of anything.

  9. He may be correct that something COULD be done toward a better form of [electrical?] power generation and distribution, but does not say which he favors. This may not be avoiding a major issue, but does seem to be so. So far, for two generations, most government involvement in the field have (at least in my opinion) been disastrous.

    But then, it COULD be that my numbers win the government lottery.

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