Energy for tomorrow
Perspectives of the transition to a post-fossil economy
This article has been published in the series “Church and Society”, as no. 387,
edited by the Catholic Centre of Social Sciences at Mönchengladbach (North-
Translated from German by Mrs. A. Elmendorff-Pfeifer, Düsseldorf
The change of the perceivable energy provisioning is not only a technological change. The question is not simply to replace one energy carrier by an other, but important are new models of operating business, of mobility and residing structures. Whoever is adapting to the change in time, will also have multiple chances.
Energy is a question of regulative ethics
The intercourse with energy imprints the development of the energy and of the society. It therefore is not only a technical economic question, but also a question of policy and of regulative ethics. A la longue justice and prosperity can only be secured if the carbon based metabolism of the industrial societies will change drastically. Thus the standard of progress is displaced: In future it will be measured essentially by the improvement of the CO2 balance sheet and by new ways of the intercourse with energy.
The surveyor’s pole is high: If it is supposed that the energy hunger will have doubled globally until 2050 and by reason of protecting the climate the emission of CO2 should be reduced by at least 80% the reduction want would be around the factor 10.
Here the protection of the climate can enter a future-resistant alliance with economic thought. For the dawn of the fossil era has already begun. “The time of cheap and abundant energy comes to the end. It is the beginning of the transition of the fossil era to a post-fossil age, a transition which will be in the same measure fundamental and decisive as it was the by fossils imprinted
industrial revolution of about more than 200 years ago”.1 The change to the solar energy and resources basis will have pioneering importance for the future safety of the world society whose effects in depth, breadth and distance will only be comparable with the importance of the industrial revolution.2 Only an economic
globalization based on solar energy will be ecologically resistant.
There exists, however, an important problem of transition: The introduction of regenerative energies does not keep pace with the growing demand of energy throughout the world. The difference between the utilization of regenerative and fossil energy is growing in favor of the latter.
But for the mankind, particularly for the development of the countries of the Global South, the fossil civilization model is an energetic impasse, out of which only one path exists: the linking of social and technical innovations or a permanent development with clear priority of regenerative energies.3 But it must be kept in mind that the isolated exchange of certain components of the fossil energy structure by regenerative energies does not suffice because these ones need other structures and developments of civilization. The provisioning of energy therefore never is purely or primarily an ecological matter, but a fundamental structural question with considerable consequences for development and prosperity.
By virtue of the various contexts of provisioning with energy, overcoming of poverty and of safety the energy issue is a first-class challenge also for Christian social ethics. It is today a determining area of activity of global justice.