The Fantasy of Electrification

Recently, I have come across literally hundreds of people defending EVs, their batteries, and electricity generation of all flavors. Of course, this is all fine and dandy, as I am used to the typical arguments in favor of technology of all stripes and often simply post my article about Problems, Predicaments, and Technology, highlighting the connection between the three.

But what concerns me most is that despite all the information available here on my blog and in so many other credible sources of science claiming the exact same things, even intelligent people are ignoring this science in favor of their own beliefs. Folks, BELIEFS DO NOT ECLIPSE FACTS, it is actually the other way around. When the facts do not agree with your beliefs, your beliefs are rendered entirely irrelevant. You can still choose to believe them, but those are called "false beliefs" and they ONLY exist in your mind; not in reality. Examine this commonly mentioned statement; "You made me laugh!" Did this occur in reality? No, of course not. You didn't "make" me laugh, I CHOSE to laugh. You lack agency to "make" me do ANYTHING. I must CHOOSE to laugh or to take any other action. I can choose to take no action as well. So, when people choose beliefs over facts when they disagree, they are choosing denial; cognitive dissonance, over reality.

This is a very important psychological effect to comprehend so that one can see if he or she is allowing denial to overcome his or her ability to learn new facts. A mind is much like a parachute, it only works when it is open. Here is much more about false beliefs and denial.

I spend a considerable amount of time writing about energy issues since energy underpins pretty much everything we do. Without the energy provided by food we eat, we would soon perish. Paul Mobbs has combined all of this into a very fact-filled article which takes a quote from the book I promoted earlier this year, Bright Green Lies, quote:

"In the book, ‘Bright Green Lies’[27], [Derrick] Jensen says,

“It can be fun thinking about “energy density,” which, if you recall, is the amount of energy per unit mass you can store in some material. Here’s what’s funny about it: Bright greens are excited because lithium-ion batteries can store 1 MJ/kg, and they hope to someday reach 5 MJ/kg. But fat already can store 37 MJ/kg, and protein and carbohydrates store about 17 MJ/kg. We think we’re so smart as we destroy the world so we can make a battery with less than one-third the energy density of a potato.”

There is a reason for this ‘bright green excitement’: Today, campaign groups are not working to ‘save the planet’, but to ‘save our affluent lifestyle’. They might talk about climate change, but their dialogue is dominated by projects or policies that replicate affluent consumption patterns; but that in turn do not significantly change[28] their ecological impact.

People obsess about electricity, and the technologies to make it. Seldom, though, do they think about something as hum-drum as their food – which is where Jensen’s statement makes a stinging point.

Mobbs makes it painfully clear through advanced analysis that not only is Jensen correct, but his real point is completely accurate - that "low tech" potatoes are actually superior to their resource-intensive counterparts! Take this reality into consideration across the spectrum of technological devices and you can clearly see how they ALL require far more energy and resources and actually provide far less in terms of actual necessary benefits (ecosystem services) for life on this planet (remembering that we are only one species). This thought leads into the next section...

The last section of Mobbs' article (which has a companion video embedded) goes into explaining the lack of agency society has in changing the systems that it operates from within, quote: 

Consumer society cannot be ‘reformed’ from within because the types of physical change required dismantle it’s fundamental reason for existence – allowing people to be affluent consumers. This has been the case since Thorstein Veben wrote one of the first books[45] on the small minority of affluent consumers in the late Victorian era; and that situation hasn’t changed[46] in the interim, it’s become habituated across most of the population.

Thus it will always be until it drives the world to ecological collapse. We cannot hope to reform consumer society from within. At best, we can only try to escape it. To do without the lithium-ion batteries, as well as the intensively grown potatoes, and instead ‘grow our own’ energy storage devices.

At its simplest, consumerism works by: Separating the mass of people from the land[47] which could sustain them; then charging a premium to buy those goods made from the land via economic middle men. Basically, it’s a more modern, ‘civilized’ form of ‘Indentured servitude’[48]. If you have no belief that this system can survive the realities of ecological collapse, then you need to find your route to the exits as quickly as possible. In reality, that means being able to have a space to grow your own potatoes!

Mobbs makes clear the message I have delivered in my articles What Would it Take for Humanity to Experience Radical Transformation? and Agency - Do We Have Free Will? by pointing out both how civilization is unsustainable and how we lack agency to reform the system from within its own confines. In other words, civilization cannot be made sustainable regardless of how much technology is used OR how efficient that technology may be. In fact, technology use is the very predicament we are suffering from, so the idea of "electrifying" society is an idea that only takes us further away from sustainability. Attempting to solve any of our predicaments from within the system is flawed logic, plain and simple. This is why every attempt to utilize the fruits of civilization to solve predicaments is destined for failure because civilization itself is unsustainable. I hate to say it for the umpteenth time, but collapse is the only realistic scenario. We are simply in a blip in time.

Since I wrote this, I added a new article regarding the attributes of oil and why it is so special. This article will help those who are unaware of those attributes learn more about them, including these questions:
  • How is oil formed? 
  • How did we become dependent on fossil fuels? 
  • How much human labor is equal to the amount of energy in one barrel of oil? 
  • Where do the majority of carbon emissions come from, and what role can we humans play in helping us reduce emissions? 
  • How much oil is left and what are future prospects for oil production and the economy?

It isn't just the system which cannot survive the realities of ecological collapse; neither can the continuation of most species, including us! Once again, the reality is cold and bitter. But this is also why I find it so important to Live Now and discover what really makes us happy and fulfilled. 



  1. Unfortunately growing one’s own potatoes will only work until the potato-less ones come, heavily armed, to remove those same potatoes.


    The firmly held "beliefs" that triumph over reality and facts begins quite early in our lives when we are told to "believe" in an all knowing, all powerful "God" that looks like my dad looked, and made this whole thing in a short week.

    On top of that, it is part and parcel of our nation that we can "believe in any religion freely, and we are not to be then restrained in that belief; something we call freedom of religion, and its exercise without restraint from the public sphere. Freedom of religion means, in practice, that we are free to believe almost anything, no matter whether it is plausible, or has any consensual facts accompanying it.

    This goes with infinite growth on a finite planet, it goes with belief that we can magically remove CO2 from our atmosphere, without simultaneously putting it back by constructing and operating those same technologies (impossible thermodynamically), and other irrational beliefs. Kurt Anderson's "Fantasyland" explains how our US was founded on and nursed with unreal beliefs in what Eric calls Myths, Fantasies, and Fairytales.

    So, back at the basics.......... if any kind of God that suffuses this culture really existed, would he/she/it allow the comprehensive destruction of his/her/its handiwork by 20th and 21st Century humans? And if not, then what is the Real Religion, (religio--to tie back to values) that exists? Could it be manifested in the Real Wonder of Life, and intrinsic to it? Immanence as divine whisper, and doesn't that whisper tell us that we are part and parcel of the living world, mortal like everything else, and subject to the laws of life.

    Since we are obliterating the laws of life, like we are obliterating the rest of mammals, (96% of all elephants since 1800, as one horrific example among countless others), and most animals with a backbone, along with insects, birds, fish, etc., etc., ............ we are obliterating most all of our fellow creatures, all close relations, ............

    In view of our Real actions, not our virtual reality dopamine fixes, then can we just stop lying to ourselves at the end of this Fantasyland,

    at the end of this industrial hegemon-on-life's-throat, that we see beginning to show its diseased "true" worthlessness, and at least on this platform, can we just see that we are part of a Dead Man Walking, (industrial civilization), and return to real values, real life, and with Eric...............

    Live Now

  3. A little over 30 years ago, a lot of this was my battle cry. My life was focused on protecting wilderness and in the early 1990s I was able to block development of an ORV park in a National Forest and to protect a City's watershed - also in that National Forest - from everything from logging to spraying and the truce lasted for almost 30 years, until politicians broke their agreement and then revoked the watershed managment plan.

    I suppose that I have largely given up on seeing writing about it change anyone's behavior. Generally, I've agreed with Jensen on most issues, but instead of writing about stuff, which at this point, I mostly dismiss as whining, I decided to build demonstration projects that showed how we could do things less destructively. So I built a food growing device at commercial scale that increased per square foot yeild by 300% compared to the control and reduced power consumption by 75% - and it gave 3 growing seasons at 48N instead of 2. So it was reasonable to expect a 400% or more increase in production. But what I quickly discovered that the farmers did not like the interface and struggled to break it. And working on a commercial organic certified farm, even one that has been actively engaged in soil building since 1989, I quickly had to recognize the brutal reality that enormous amounts of plastic are consumed in every crop: that single-use plastic film is used as mulch and miles of irrigation drip tape gets replaced with every planting in an effort to control blights. We get a decade or more out of the clear plastic sheeting, but like the driptape, it eventually becomes landfill.

    In 1999 I combined three of my clients' projects into a solution to as much as double the transmission capacity of the power grid by running the transformers in substations closer to capacity and monitoring the temperature and chemistry of the oil insulation in real-time using a fiberoptic probe that had been designed to prevent the 3 Mile Island containment vessel fiasco from occurring again, connected via the ethernet over powerline that the second client had recently patented, to third client's a genetic solver algorithm that could cut the settling time of the calculation fron the then current 10-15 minutes down to 5-15 seconds. Allowing power to be wheeled around problems far more efficiently and prevent brownouts or blackouts. We were then introduced to Enron, who had figured out how to manipulate the market and create shortages that raised the value of one route over another. Their needs of course prevailed.

    I'm not sure but I think I may be done fighting battles like those. What I am seeing as my community is literally torn apart into factions who each demonize the other over issues that are clearly trivial or at best minor, compared to the radical transformation clearly required, wearing masks and getting vaccinated. The people who I used to work with trying to keep local goernment in line, keeping big box stores out of our community, protecting wetlands, getting greenwashed corporate products off the shelves of the local food coopt have mostly gone full-tilt antivaxx, and several appear to be on the verge of climate denialism. I do not think we have a snowball's chance in hell of fixing this stuff. I have spent a lot of the past week trying to help a homeless guy get into the safety net system. He had no state issued ID, and without that, he cannot get an appointment for an interview with DSHS, and he cannot get state issued ID without a mailing address. Full Catch-22. Like the Native Americans on reservations in the Dakotas who cannot get ballots to vote in elections because they do not have street addresses.

    1. Hi Joe,
      I just came across this again as I was searching for something and it reminds me of Sevareid's Law - "The chief cause of problems is solutions."


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