Socialism, Capitalism and the Environment

Collage compressedPublished: 30 October 2014
Author: Alex Dirmeier

There is an upcoming ecological catastrophe on this planet, which puts in jeopardy the whole existence of life as we know it. This is an insight which is nowadays generally accepted. Global warming, pollution or the impending shortage and decline of fossil fuels are only some aspects of this cataclysm. It is also commonly accepted that ecological problems are inherent to the economic activity of humans. In particular, the capitalist world economy is causing many of the ecological problems. Not so common is probably the insight that these problems do not have resilient solutions using the economic methods of capitalism. This point of view will be argued in this article.The primary driving force of capitalism is production for profit, the re-investment of profit and the expansion of the capital stock. Capitalism is dynamic and can be also innovative as long as possibilities exist for profitable investment in sectors that advance the development of new technologies. In the current situation with the existence of monopolies creating barriers for investment, capitalism becomes technology-conservative. Monopolies impede the conversion of production technologies. This particularly includes the change to environmentally sustainable technologies. Additionally, all the sectors relevant for questions of ecology are highly monopolized in today’s world economy. And in most cases these monopolies are privately owned companies or are state owned enterprises that act according to the profit motive. These ecologically relevant sectors of the economy include the petrochemical industry, the transport sector (including the producers of cars, trains, airplanes, and so on), energy production and distribution, but also many parts of agriculture.

We can observe that production is changing, new technologies and enterprises are emerging in the ecologically relevant sectors, if and only if, there are incentives given or constraints imposed on the economy from outside the economic system. In most cases, this can only be done by the state. Hence, for example, the increase in production of renewable energy, which we witnessed over the last 20 years, was only possible because profits of new green solar and wind energy companies were largely subsidized by the state and, at the same time, the big energy monopolies were tranquilized by various contracts that secured the residual operating time of nuclear power plants and similar arrangements. This is exactly what happened on the basis of the amendment of the Atomic Energy Act by the German Social Democrat/Green government in 2002.1

The problem with this kind of ecological change is twofold. Firstly, the ecological conversion takes place slowly – on a world scale it is not conceivable that proceeding in this manner can avoid the ecological catastrophe at hand. When we observe the political and economic events on a world scale which deal with ecological problems (c.f., the Kyoto-protocol 2), it is most likely that, in the long run, the interests of the capitalist monopolies will always dominate. It is argued below that the interests of the capitalist monopolies have to be broken in order to make substantial achievements. Secondly, the state funding of profits has to be paid for by somebody. As the state subsidizing of Green profits goes along with profit guarantees for the monopolies, and not the skimming of monopoly profits, the only possibility to pay for this kind of ecological change is by the redistribution of money from the working people into the capitalists’ pockets. Almost all ecological change that took place up to now is paid for by all of us through taxes, higher energy prices and similar malpractices.

The ecological conversion necessary
If we look at the way our current world economic systems works in relation to the environment, what are the immediate necessary measures and changes to be made so that the upcoming ecological cataclysm can be avoided? Surprisingly, this question is not so difficult to answer when we look at the world with a bit of common sense.

The most important sector one has to analyze for an answer is energy production. This includes mainly the production of electricity, which is the backbone of our whole society, economically and culturally. But also the question of the production of thermal heat in the developed countries and the first-time supply of electricity to people in the underdeveloped countries by not using the same polluting energy production techniques. This is a very important question as 60% of the people in Africa, for example, still do not have access to electricity.3 In 2008, 81% of the world?s energy consumption4 was attributed to the burning of fossil fuels. 5 There are estimates that this proportion will rise to 90% in 20306 if there is no fundamental switch in energy production techniques. About 17% of the total world energy consumption is allotted to electricity.7 The burning of fossil fuels generates 21.3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide per year, only half of which can be reabsorbed by the environment.8 Hence, a conversion of energy production towards techniques that do not burn fossil fuel is obviously necessary for pollution reasons, as well as for the fact that we are approaching the end of fossil fuel reserves on the planet. 9

One could be inclined to think that the expansion of energy production by nuclear fission provides a way out of this mess. This is disputable for various reasons. Firstly, the uranium needed to supply nuclear power plants is an element whose natural occurrence is also limited.10 Secondly, one has to take into account the carbon dioxide balance of the whole process from uranium extraction and enrichment to the final disposal of nuclear waste. The figures for this balance are highly controversial.11 But it is safe to estimate that, in total, the production of a kilowatt hour of electricity by nuclear fission produces at least one third of the carbon dioxide emissions that the production of a kilowatt hour of electricity by the burning of coal does. It is clear that under the pretense of a necessary massive extension of nuclear power to replace energy production by fossil fuels, neither the pollution problem nor the global warming problem could be solved. Thirdly, the nuclear disaster in Japan in spring 2011 has once again shown that there are still many unaccounted security risks in the operation of nuclear power plants. Moreover, the profit motive in energy production is diametrically opposed to an extension of security measures. Fourthly, the biggest problem with nuclear fission is the final disposal of the highly radioactive and toxic nuclear waste. The ecological problems connected with this are undisputed. Furthermore, the total costs for this final disposal are normally not paid for by the energy companies operating the nuclear power plants, but are passed on to the state, and hence are to be paid by the whole society. Otherwise energy production by nuclear fission is just not profitable.

Nuclear Fusion 12, in contrast with nuclear fission, is a totally different kettle of fish. Nuclear fusion, which aims to emulate the process of energy production taking place inside the sun, has been researched for over 60 years. It uses virtually inexhaustible hydrogen as an energy source and is generally considered quite safe. If it is really possible to develop nuclear fusion to become a reliable technology of energy production in the next few decades13, it can play a fundamental role in the future mix of renewable energy sources.

A Circular Flow Economy
It is necessary to start creating a ?circular flow economy? in energy production. This means the goal must be to gain independence from limited energy sources and to not use a technology of energy production that produces more pollution and carbon dioxide emissions than can be absorbed by the environment. When we burn fossil fuel we already use, in the last analysis, solar energy. Solar energy that was stored millions of years ago in the genesis of coal, oil and natural gas. So, obviously, we have to switch to a direct use of solar energy that arrives on earth now. Together with energy production by wind, waves, tides and geothermal sources such energy production techniques are described as ?renewable?, because they are factually available in an unlimited amount.

Concerning thermal heat, it is necessary to consider thermal insulation of housing (as shelter against cold in northern latitudes and as protection from heat in the warmer latitudes) as a central field for necessary action. This needs large scale infrastructure and construction programs. Bearing in mind the urgency of the matter due to upcoming environmental disasters, it is necessary to consider a time frame of between 20 to a maximum of 50 years, in which the better part of this conversion of energy production should have taken place. Of course, already a time frame of 20 years is far out of the scope of profit-oriented capitalist companies.

Another important sector of the economy which is intimately linked with environmental problems is the ?mobility? sector. This includes a whole spread of sectors of the economy. Maybe the most important among of which is the automotive industry, because it constitutes the backbone of many national economies in the developed countries. But also manufacturers of other means of transportation, like trains, airplanes or bicycles should be included in this mobility sector. Furthermore, the whole public and private transportation sector including railways, road networks, urban transportation, air travel and many more have to be counted into this domain. It is estimated that the whole transportation sector accounts for 20% to 25% percent of the world energy consumption and carbon dioxide emissions.14

Public Transport Less Polluting
A simple comparison of the carbon dioxide emission per capita in urban transport between US cities and Western European cities shows that fully developed public urban transport systems can reduce pollution substantially.15 It is quite obvious that a fully developed, highly maintained and affordable urban transport system is key to reducing individual mobility and hence carbon dioxide emissions and pollution not only in the big cities, but also in mid-sized towns. This is basically due to the fact that a public transport system runs on electricity, which can theoretically be obtained from renewable sources and that the energy expenditure per capita is much lower than in individual transport, e.g., by car. The only problem is that long experience has shown that public transport systems cannot be operated on straightforward capitalist criteria – if they are fully developed and highly maintained plus affordable to the general public, they will not be profitable enough to be run by capitalist firms.

To reduce carbon dioxide emissions and pollution caused by transportation, there is a need for planned and integrated transport systems. This can only be achieved, in a way affordable for everyone, if the urban transport systems?railways, airlines and so on?are publicly owned and are made to operate with the goal of providing the best possible transport system. Of course, this is not achievable without massive investment into the transport systems, while in many cases extra subsidies for maintaining operations will be necessary. These subsidies have to be provided by the state and have to be financed by taxes. If either the majority of the population or the capitalist companies then pay for this public transport system, is hence obviously a question of the balance of taxation and therefore a question of who has the power.

There is no perspective of completely abolishing individual transportation in the nearer future. It can be reduced by a proper public transport system, but ? especially in the rural areas ? many people are dependent on their vehicles. However, recent technological developments make it feasible for the first time to consider the complete abolition of the internal combustion engine in the automotive sector and its replacement by electric drives.16 The big advantage of electric vehicles are their potential to operate on energy obtained from renewable sources, provided there is a conversion of energy production taking place. This reduces carbon dioxide emissions from individual cars immensely. Nevertheless, at the same time there is the need to further constrict individual transport and boost initiatives like car-sharing, which of course would be at the expense of the revenues of the automotive companies. Also recent development of vehicle-to-grid17 solutions provide a fascinating possibility for the construction of electric smart grids.

Modern Materials
The petrochemical industry manufactures many important products from petroleum besides gasoline18. The most important ones are certainly the various kinds of plastics19. It is often forgotten that not only packaging, beverage bottles or lawn chairs are made of plastic, but all of our high-end technology products (and our modern culture) such as computers, cell phones or airplanes depend crucially on diverse and often highly specific kinds of plastics, which in the manufacturing process are combined with other important materials of metallic origin. Almost all these plastics are made of petroleum. Hence, this part of our economy is also directly affected by the upcoming shortage of oil. As plastics are nothing else than rearranged chains of polymer, similar to proteins that also occur in biological sources, it is theoretically possible to produce all necessary plastics from renewable primary products. This already works quite well for generic plastics, e.g., for packaging, where compostable bioplastics20 are already common.

For the highly specific plastics used in high-end technological products or for other petrochemicals like industrial lubricants or paints, which are also economically crucial in their own way, no bioplastic sources exist up to now. There are some scientific beginnings for this, but the truth is for those petrochemical products, there is no clue how to make them without relying on oil. Hence, there is the urgent need for research and development programs that investigate bioplastics further. Some research is already done in this direction, but not enough. The problem is, that on capitalist terms, finding a new alternative production method for a commodity is normally not as profitable as developing new commodities that can be produced by the same old methods. This follows from a simple consideration: sell more commodities, without investing in a fundamental change in machinery and you will make much more profit. An alternative source, and its development, for many petrochemical products, will obviously become profitable as soon as the oil price rises much further. This will definitely happen in the future, but the threat is that it will be too late to conduct all the necessary research in enough time.

Recycling and Durability
Another important aspect to consider in this context is recycling21 and the durability of commodities. In capitalist production with so many commodities the problem is that designing and producing them in a way that they can be more easily recycled, or they will have a higher durability, directly affects the profits to the negative side. This is the reason why many simple changes in production are not made. Take just one example to underline this assertion. There is no technological reason why a modern smartphone could not be designed in a more modular way, such that components of it can be regularly upgraded. This could easily lead to an extension of the life time of high-end technological products. But it is an economic decision to design smartphones as integrated devices that can only be thrown away after two years of usage. In addition to that, there is also no technological reason why a smartphone cannot be produced so that its components could be separated and recycled more easily at the end of its lifespan. Not to do this is a profit-based decision too.

Of course there are many more sectors of the economy and the society which ought to be considered in connection with the environment. Many of the problems in these sectors also need a conversion of production techniques or the development of new technologies. Many problems exist for example in agriculture especially in land consumption in food production. Also in relation to the production of biofuel22 and the production of greenhouse gases by animal husbandry23. Other important issues that could not be considered in this article are the protection of the tropical rainforest24 and ecological problems caused by mining operations. Some environmental problems appearing from time to time are generally considered to be caused by human economic activity, but their specific origin has yet to be properly researched. A famous example is the colony collapse disorder of bees25. Thus, there are many topics where research is urgently needed, but where the outcome is likely to conflict with the capitalist drive for profit.

Is Ecological Conversion Possible?
Is it technologically feasible to switch the technology of energy production in the whole world economy to renewable energy sources, while, at the same time, supplying the underdeveloped parts of the world with electricity for the first time and applying a massive infrastructural program for thermal insulation, within the next few decades? Do we need some kind of bridging technology to achieve this?

To begin with, one has to observe that all scientific surveys and papers which deal with the technological feasibility of the conversion to renewable energy, basically agree that all the technological prerequisites are either existent today, or there is a clear idea of which further scientific developments are necessary and how they are to be done.26 This is important because it shows that all of the world’s energy production can be converted to renewable energy sources without the need of a completely unknown or new technology or science. The potential for the conversion is present in today’s technology and is nothing as distant as, say, space travel to the outer solar system.

However, the main controversy revolves around the time-frame needed to implement this energy conversion. When one looks around in different papers the estimates of the time-frame differ from two decades to two centuries.27 It is highly unlikely that most of these surveys are scientifically flawed and, in fact, one can easily check the logical consistence of the conclusions in most of these papers. The reason for the different estimates of the time-frame are mainly caused by different, more or less implicit, assumptions on available resources for technological development, the possible pace of the redirection of investments, and available monetary resources.
Thus, one must conclude that there are no technological obstructions to implementing the conversion of energy production within the next two decades, because these different assumptions can all be changed by political decisions. There is no law of physics that limits the deployment of resources into the development of necessary electricity storage facilities or smart electric grids. There is no law of nature that prevents the radical skimming of profits of the energy monopolies and their investment in Green technology.

Finally, there is only a limit of monetary resources if it is envisaged that it will be the masses of working people who will have to foot the bill for the conversion. Alternatively, the total wealth produced in society is so large that this ecological restructuring can be easily afforded. The only problem is that this wealth drains away into the profits of the technology-conservative big capitalist companies and into speculation in the finance sector. Hence, there are only political barriers to the implementation of the ecological conversion of energy production. Such political conditions are made by humans and can, thus, be changed by humans. We have to conclude that the time-frame necessary for the conversion of energy production to renewable sources is essentially a political and not a technological problem.

Are Bridging Technologies Necessary?
Hence, also the discussion about bridging technologies has no proper foundation. Maybe the most famous of these technologies is carbon capture and storage (CCS) technology28. The idea is to capture the carbon dioxide released in the burning process of fossil fuel, mostly coal, and to store it, usually below ground. Firstly, one causes with this procedure an ecological problem similar to the final disposal of radioactive waste, because we have to make absolutely sure that this carbon dioxide will never come out again. The idea is controversial even if it is possible. Secondly, the whole idea of such bridging technologies is to try and solve political problems by technological means. If there were an all-embracing political decision for the adoption of a circular flow economy in energy production, for example, no bridging technology would be needed. The ?big advantage? from a capitalist point of view of these ?bridging? ideas is that they coincide with the profit interests of the big energy companies whose motto is: Keep at it! Just a few years more to squeeze some more profit out of old coal-burning power plants until the last cent of invested capital has been realised.

Building Insulation
Thermal insulation of housing is a very important issue connected with energy production. A large part of the world’s energy consumption is due to domestic heating or cooling, depending on the latitude. Also more northern countries have a higher demand for heating energy and in many cases heating is the biggest fraction of domestic energy usage.29 The main factor responsible for this is old and badly insulated housing. Today housing and also office buildings can be constructed in a way that does not need any classical heating30. It is even possible now to retrofit old buildings so that they need hardly any classical heating31. Of course, this becomes more and more costly with more northern latitude. But it is estimated that with today’s technology all housing as well as public and office buildings, at least south of the polar circle, could be insulated in such a way that for them no specific energy usage for heating or cooling is necessary.32 Any additional heating requirements could easily be provided by share local systems such as district heating schemes33.

All of this is technologically possible. The problem of implementation is yet again a political and economic one. If we look at what is needed for the implementation of such an insulation program – a large scale program of investment in construction measures to insulate all or nearly all buildings and to build new ones, as well as a lot of infrastructural tasks to construct district heating networks. But, although possible, this investment does not, or only at a very small scale, take place, because it is not profitable. People do not pay for not having to heat. Rather they pay for heating to the electricity, gas or oil companies. A large-scale thermal insulation program cannot be profitably sold to the masses of people who would benefit from it and only takes place, if at all, if the profits of the construction companies are paid by the state. And the state very often only does this if it can reallocate the costs to the people. Hence, it seems quite unlikely that such a large-scale thermal insulation program, which is both possible and necessary, will ever take place under capitalist conditions.

Localised Electricity Production
The provision of electricity to all urban and rural areas in the developed countries took decades to achieve. Part of the reason for this is that a large-scale infrastructure of electricity transmission lines and networks together with centralized big power plants had to be created. In the past the steady provision of the same electric voltage in a large network could only be guaranteed in this way. Today with the development of smart grids34 this is changing. The step to more localized energy production, e.g., by solar and wind sources, which can with the use of smart grid technology provide a steady electric voltage, away from centralized power production should be viewed as technological progress and as an important development of the means of production. Of course, there is still the need for central electric backbones in the network, which can for example be actualized by hydro-electric power.

Still, the conversion of all power grids to smart grids require substantial investments into infrastructure and the replacement of coal, oil and gas-burning power plants. This is opposed to private profit interests which are embodied in the existing infrastructure, manufacture and distribution operations. Hence, there is a need for a public program of environmental investments into big infrastructure projects and the conversion of energy production, which is opposed to the interests of the big energy monopolies.

Modernising the Underdeveloped Countries
The creation of localised electricity production is the only way to easily electrify rural areas in the underdeveloped countries.35 It is a mistake to believe that the development of these countries could proceed along lines which emulate the path of development that took place in the industrial nations. To try repeat development this way would lead to an ecological disaster.

The same is true for the transport and petrochemical sectors. Even with the simultaneous promotion of and conversion to electric cars, it is quite obvious that the total number of individual vehicles in the world is not sustainable. And the transport systems in the threshold countries cannot grow in a way emulating the individual transport culture in the industrialized nations. This leads straight into ecological disaster. Thus, it is clear that there must be a conversion of production of the automotive companies and also a redirection of capital and investment to other sectors of the economy. It is very doubtful that this can be accomplished by market forces within capitalism. There must be a political decision for this and the companies have to be coerced to obey the political will. The same holds for the companies in petrochemical industry.

No Green Capitalism
The idea of a Green New Deal36 is now popular among the political left and in the labor movement, especially in the wake of the impact of the world financial and economic crisis. The basic question posed in this debate is: can capitalism develop a new dynamic of growth from investment in green technology and conversion to sustainable production? Perhaps with some initial help from state subsidies.
Based on the considerations in the previous sections, such a scenario seems unlikely and additionally would not be very desirable for the majority of the people. As we described above, capitalism is dynamic and grows if there is the possibility for profitable investment in the expansion of markets and production. Many sectors of the present capitalist world economy are highly monopolized and profit rates are low. This is one reason for the redirection of much capital into speculation. But the necessary measures to enter a sustainable circular flow economy, which were described earlier, generally are not based on an expansion of markets and production, but on their conversion . Often a redeployment of capital is necessary before it its profitability has been fully realised. For example, when it comes to switching off nuclear power plants in the nuclear power phase out, or the massive extension of public transport at the expense of automotive profits.

This can be a bit different in underdeveloped countries where the factor of imperialism has also to be considered. Simply because where no coal-burning power plants already exist, energy production does not have to be converted, but can be build up in a sustainable way from scratch.

Most of the measures necessary for a sustainable future would benefit the public, but cannot be transformed into commodities to be sold and extracted for profit. Therefore, ecological sustainability cannot be achieved as a classical abstract economic growth, but has to be achieved as the growth of specific sectors of the economy with associated research and development that would be at the expense of others.

The only kind of ?green capitalism? that is conceivable would be the continuation of today’s state subsidising of green (e.g., solar) companies, by redistribution the costs to the majority of the people through taxes and rising energy prices. This would simply mean a further worsening of living standards for the majority of the people and a kind of ?eco-for-high-income-earners? capitalism. This could perhaps absorb some of the global ecological problems, but their final solution in this way is doubtful, as their ultimate capitalist cause would not have been eradicated. Moreover, the majority of the people would be made pay for that partial conversion, instead of the capitalist causers, who would still make a fortune.

On Eco-Socialism
Within the broader Left and Green movement there is a current which calls itself eco-socialist or is attributed this label. Some strongholds of this current are in the Left-Green parties in Scandinavia and in the Green Party of the United States. Two main eco-socialist thinkers are Joel Kovel37 and James O’Connor38. A good overview of the eco-socialist ideas can also be found on the associated Wikipedia page39.

The ideas, goals and methods of the eco-socialists, in political praxis as well as in theory, root in Marxism and the Green movement. Their aims are compatible and largely coincide with the program outlined in this work. However, their original contribution to the movement is the construction of a specific theory of Eco-Marxism and the enrichment of classical socialist and Marxist ideas and programs with ecological considerations. This makes the eco-socialist current a valuable ally and an important integral part of the left and the labor movement. Certainly, the attempt to create a consistent eco-Marxist theory is an interesting task in its own right, but it is not necessary to draw up a program of ecological measures required today to avoid the imminent ecological catastrophe under capitalism. As I have tried to outline in the previous sections, classical Marxist economics is sufficient to analyze today’s ecological disaster caused by capitalism, as well as the socialist way out of it. In order to draft the concrete measures necessary and possible to start to move towards a circular flow economy, one does not even need Marxist theory. Basically, these tasks follow from common sense.

Democratic Planning and Investment
It should be understood from the considerations in the sections above that the prevention of a worldwide ecological disaster requires a conscious redirection of the world economy. This can only be put into practice as a democratic program. The key monopolies in the energy sector, in the petrochemical industry and the mobility sector have to be taken away from private profit-oriented control and placed under public control. This can be achieved by various means including direct nationalisation, nationalisation and state control of the funding banks or similar measures. The key is to have the possibility to bring programs of controlling and redirecting flows of investment, first into public discussion and then under public and democratic decision-making. The completion of a program of sustainability requires also funds from other sectors of the economy. It should include a scheme of the allocation of the profits and revenues of other private and public sectors of the economy, e.g., by taxes, and their redirection to the necessary infrastructure and conversion programs. This ought to and can be done while maintaining the present high living standards of the majority of the people and even improving them. The costs do not have to be redistributed to the working masses if the sustainability conversion is planned properly in their interests (see also the references in the next section).

Comment by the author: This is an updated version of an article which was originally written in 2011. Some of the sources and references have been revised. All the political and scientific conclusions hold true today as they did 3 years ago.

Suggested Further Reading and Viewing
For reasons of space, this article could only deal superficially with many important issues. The Wikipedia and WWW pages in the various footnotes should provide access to the subject and can also give directions to further reading. Especially recommended is the film The Fourth Revolution: Energy http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fourth_Revolution:_Energy, to get an overview on what ecological changes are technologically easily possible nowadays. The same topics are covered in the books by Hermann Scheer: The Energy Imperative, 2011; The Solar Economy, 2004; The Solar Manifesto, 2005; Energy Autonomy, 2006 (all published by Routeledge/Earthscan), which are also highly recommendable.

Hermann Scheer was a German social democratic member of parliament and devoted his life to the advance of solar energy. His books also contain politically necessary and possible measures to bring about the ecological conversion of the economy. What makes his work so valuable is that it shows how ecological change is feasible and affordable in an economic sense. However, from the emphasis and Marxist perspective developed in this article, there are two flaws in his vision that prevent their simple implementation within capitalism. Firstly, Scheer underestimates the power of the energy monopolies which can only be broken by nationalisation and democratic control. He thinks that this power of the monopolies can somehow be bypassed by relying on market mechanisms. Secondly, as we argue here, the full implementation of an ecological economic program can only be achieved by the conscious direction of investments within economic planning.

Sources & Footnotes
1 See http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Atomgesetz_%28Deutschland%29 (in German) for the history of the German atomic energy act and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_power_phase-out for some background on the status of nuclear energy also in different countries.
2 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kyoto_Protocol
3 For this and other figures see the excellent film The Fourth Revolution: Energy, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fourth_Revolution:_Energy
4 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_energy_consumption
5 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil_fuel
6 http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossile_Energie
7 http://de.wikipedia.org/wiki/Weltenergiebedarf
8 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil_fuel
9 See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peak_oil for some scientific estimates of the time frame of this exhaustion.
10 Although the supply situation with uranium is controversial and depends crucially on an estimate of up to now undiscovered deposits, one can reasonably assume that the uranium supply would not last much longer than 100 years if the percentage of nuclear power production is increased to cover for the burning of most of the fossil fuel.
11 See, e.g., http://www.stormsmith.nl/ for a survey
12 See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nuclear_fusion and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fusion_power for an overview and recent developments.
13 There are some reasons which make this seem viable, but also various reasons that stand against this perspective. (See some of the links on the Wikipedia pages in the previous footnote.)
14 World Energy Council (2007): Transport Technologies and Policy Scenarios ( http://www.worldenergy.org/publications/2007/transport-technologies-and-policy-scenarios)
15 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sustainable_transport
16 There are considerations that this would have been possible decades ago if the proper research would have been supported and not impeded by the automotive companies. Although this is conceivable it remains speculative.
17 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vehicle-to-grid see also http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Electric_car
18 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Petrochemical
19 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Plastic
20 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bioplastic
21 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Recycling
22 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Biofuel
23 C.f.: http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2009/05/090507145752.htm
24 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tropical_rainforest
25 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Colony_collapse_disorder
26 See http://www.dpg-physik.de/presse/pressemit/2010/pdf/DPG-PM%202010-21%20Energiestudie.pdf or http://www.ren21.net/ren21activities/globalstatusreport.aspx or http://www.azimuthproject.org/azimuth/show/HomePage to name just a few sources for further reading in this direction.
27 See Hermann Scheer: The Energy Imperative, 2011 for a politically motivated optimistic scenario. There are also several further recommendable books by the same author: The Solar Economy, 2004; The Solar Manifesto, 2005; Energy Autonomy, 2006 (all published by Routledge/Earthscan).
28 See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Carbon_capture_and_storage
29 See, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Domestic_energy_consumption
30 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Passive_house
31 See, e.g., the film The Fourth Revolution: Energy, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fourth_Revolution:_Energy
32 See, e.g., the books by Hermann Scheer in the Suggested Further Reading section.
33 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Teleheating
34 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Smart_grid
35 See e.g. the film The Fourth Revolution: Energy, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Fourth_Revolution:_Energy
36 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Green_New_Deal
37 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joel_Kovel
38 See, e.g., Natural Causes: Essays in Ecological Marxism, 1998
39 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eco-socialism

 

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