Select your localized edition:

Close ×

More Ways to Connect

Discover one of our 28 local entrepreneurial communities »

Be the first to know as we launch in new countries and markets around the globe.

Interested in bringing MIT Technology Review to your local market?

MIT Technology ReviewMIT Technology Review - logo

 

Unsupported browser: Your browser does not meet modern web standards. See how it scores »

{ action.text }

Conversations among energy wonks can remind listeners of the adage about the half-full glass. Pessimists think that oil production will peak sometime in this decade; optimists believe that new technologies could extract untapped oil reserves for at least a few decades more. But there is one thing no one disputes: we will soon run out of cheap oil.

A growing, influential body of writers believes that the exhaustion of cheap oil will be disastrous. In this issue, we take a look at The Long Emergency: Surviving the Converging Catastrophes of the Twenty-First Century, by James Howard Kunstler. The author, a novelist and journalist who has written for the Atlantic and Rolling Stone, writes that we will fall into “an abyss of economic and social disorder on a scale that no one has seen before.” Are he and his fellow doomsayers right?

Hardly. To agree with Kunstler is to believe that alternative sources of energy cannot replace oil. This means dismissing the combined powers of natural gas, solar power, wind, coal, hydroelectric, biomass, and nuclear power. Doomsayers argue that these alternatives are a “mirage,” as Kunstler puts it, because they will never produce as much energy as cheaply as oil. But that assumes we will not devise ways to use energy more efficiently. It also ignores the rapid progress in improving energy technologies, particularly in solar, wind, and nuclear power.

We have faith in human ingenuity: as oil prices increase, technologists will find new ways to generate energy.

1 comment. Share your thoughts »

Tagged: Energy

Reprints and Permissions | Send feedback to the editor

From the Archives

Close

Introducing MIT Technology Review Insider.

Already a Magazine subscriber?

You're automatically an Insider. It's easy to activate or upgrade your account.

Activate Your Account

Become an Insider

It's the new way to subscribe. Get even more of the tech news, research, and discoveries you crave.

Sign Up

Learn More

Find out why MIT Technology Review Insider is for you and explore your options.

Show Me