maintain complex supply chains, roads, mineral extraction, health insurance, helicopters and ambulances, and the thousands of aspects of our global extractive and distributive economy. This means our future energy mix must simultaneously be able to maintain and rebuild that large red triangle of infrastructure to be the base for the next generation of fuel, heat, technology, and products. Right now, this current infrastructure is ~85% maintained with coal, oil, and natural gas. 203 It is true that advances in solar technology may electrify many mining and manufacturing processes, but the past-built infrastructure that makes everything we do possible is easy to overlook. If we need to allocate a large portion of our yearly energy pie towards renewable build-out, we must remember to allocate an even larger portion to that big red triangle on the left. Renewables use existing societal roads and infrastructure that required fossil energy to create, maintain, and one day rebuild.
As another alien- esque comment, let me note that while I like the schematic representation above, it strikes
me that the big red triangle is not only invisible to the thinking processes of most humans, but also not to scale . It may be a lot larger. Moreover, as it is built infrastructure, it is useful, while the new energy gained these days is mostly wasted going around in circles. So, what happens when all that big-red- triangle stuff needs to be replaced? The rusting bridges, the decaying concrete, the underground pipes, the enormous hydroelectric dams, container ships and docks, and stuff? That all requires actual labor and work , and getting it done with rooftop solar panels will be an interesting exercise in creative energy accounting, which may leave less to waste on brain- pleasing luxuries. It’s a good thing brains can be pleased in non -wasteful ways, eh? The Bottom Line: The current scaling of “renewables” exists entirely within, and enabled by, an existing high-energy-gain society maintained by fossil energy. There is no free lunch!
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