Towards a sustainable energy supply: Shifting paradigms in energy supply

Towards a sustainable energy supply: Shifting paradigms in energy supply

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Following Hubbert (1956) and his Peak Oil theory, there was a remarkable increase in the efforts made by the environmentalist to find replacements to oil as a way of satisfying the world energy demands, but one century before nearly all energy already came from renewable sources.

Even when the first use of biomass for fire is well documented several hundreds of years ago, it is widely accepted that its use did not become common until much later. Related to sustainability measures to reduce the use of non-renewable sources to obtain fire, in How Societies decide to Fail or Succeed Jared Diamond documents some early cases of extended efforts, like the forest management policy occurred during the Edo period of Japan in the seventeenth century.

However, it is in the eighteenth century, with the Industrial Revolution, when the appearance of coal as a more efficient way to power steam engines than wood, lead to a massive use of this resource. But its massive use leaded to big concerns about the way petroleum springs and coal mines were rapidly diminishing, highlighted by the prediction of the inventor of the first solar-powered engine, the French professor Augustine Mouchot, in 1873:

‘The time will arrive when the industry of Europe will cease to find those natural resources, so necessary for it. Petroleum springs and coal mines are not inexhaustible but are rapidly diminishing in many places. Will man, then, return to the power of water and wind? Or will he emigrate where the most powerful source of heat sends its rays to all? History will show what will come.’

These examples of individuals and societies acknowledging the importance of finding the right balance between the well-being of the society and its demands al...

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...eries 2)
2005 World Summit Outcome, Resolution A/60/1. (United Nations General Assembly, New York, 2005).
Malthus, Thomas R. An Essay on the Principle of Population: Library of Economics" (London, 1798).
Meadows D.H., Meadows D.L., Randers J., Behrens W.W., The Limits to Growth (Universe Books, New York, 1972).
UNPD, World Population Prospects: 2006 Revision, Population Database.
Beckerman, Wilfred In Defence of Economic Growth (London, 1974).
Ekins, Paul Limits to growth and sustainable development: grappling with ecological realities (London, 1992).
Beckerman, Wilfred Sustainable development: is it a useful concept? (Environmental values 3, London, 1994) pp. 191–209.
Solow, R.M. Intergenerational equity and exhaustible resources (Review of economic studies: symposium of the economics of exhaustible resources, Massachutes, 1974) pp. 29–46.

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