Hermann Scheer has written the most important book of the 21st Century. Yes, that's right -- either we follow this path to a sustainable future, or it is the path not taken as we head into a cycle of civilizational decline, chaos and devastation. The #1 priority in the U.S. right now is regime change -- the Bush/Cheney Regime is dead-set against renewable energy. But in the medium term, a rapid shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy, centered on solar energy, is humanity's #1 priority. Scheer has masterfully critiqued the fossil fuel status quo and outlined what needs to be done in this powerful, technically-based, yet compelling manifesto for change. This is one book on energy that will not put you to sleep!
There is far too much here to summarize, but here are a few critical points:
1) The conventional wisdom that says solar and other renewables are too expensive are systematically biased by both the current massive subsidies for fossil fuels and what is left out in calculating the cost of fossil fuels. All it will take to drive down the cost of PV (photovoltaic solar) is ramping up production. Of course massive investment in R&D is also urgently needed to realize greater efficiency. (Scheer is well-equipped for this analysis -- his Ph.D. is in economics.)
2) Fossil fuels of necessity require long supply chains, as they do not occur everywhere, and this entails both inefficiency and higher cost. Solar, wind, biomass and other renewables can be developed locally just about anywhere -- solar energy in principle needs no supply chain at all. The development of a decentralized renewable energy system globally will, in addition to being environmentally sustainable, ultimately be much cheaper than the current centralized fossil fuel system.
3) The battle is already on -- Scheer (an SPD Member of Parliament in Germany) and others have successfully passed legislation in Germany and elsewhere mandating that the electricity grid buy power from locally generated renewable sources. This is a revolutionary reform that has yet to be realized in the U.S., but it is coming, with wind power leading the way. (Howard Geller's ENERGY REVOLUTION is an excellent guide to policy change in the U.S. -- see my review.) Do not believe any sweeping claim about the costs and benefits of renewable energy -- increasing numbers of us can benefit starting now, but there will clearly be losers, and that will include the powerful fossil fuel corporations that don't join the process (BP and Shell are already starting to hedge their bets). It is going to be a fight, a revolution as sweeping as any yet in human existence, comparable only to the shift to agriculture and the shift to industrial manufacturing.
What is needed is a mass movement that works on all levels to bring about the change. Hermann Scheer's THE SOLAR ECONOMY is the manifesto and guide for this movement. For the moment, Europe is clearly in the lead. We in the U.S. need to catch up quickly and start to build a new front inside the U.S. Leviathan -- planetary change will not work if the U.S., the 3rd most populous country and the largest consumer of energy and everything else, does not join the process.
With the Hubbert Peak for oil coming no later than 2020 time is short -- if we want to demonstrate that having evolved such large brains is really an advantage, we have to start using them. The future is clear -- it's either barbarism or a solar economy!