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Topic: Food

[Episode #123] – Sustainable Energy Transitions

Addressing the threat of climate change means executing a successful energy transition. But as the transition proceeds, we are increasingly having to confront the impacts of transition technologies, and consider the trade-offs of choosing those technologies over the conventional technologies that they are displacing - because nothing we can do is without an impact of some kind, and everything we build requires the use of raw materials. So the question of what is truly sustainable is beginning to take a larger importance in the formation of policies designed to advance energy transition.

But energy is still being taught primarily as part of the engineering discipline, leaving students from non-engineering disciplines in need of ways to learn something about energy, in order to help them be more effective in their work. Fortunately, professor Dustin Mulvaney of San Jose State University in California has a new textbook designed to address this need, titled “Sustainable Energy Strategies: Socio-Ecological Dimensions of Decarbonization.” It’s a very ambitious effort to survey many of the complex topics that are critical for people involved in energy transition to understand. In this episode, we talk with Dustin about why he wrote it, and we take a walk through each chapter in the book to understand the complex questions around what “sustainability” really means in the context of energy transition.

Geek rating: 5


[Episode #103] – A Return to Regionalism

Is “peak oil” still something to be concerned about, and if so, what does depletion of conventional oil supply suggest about our future? Our guest in this episode certainly thinks peak oil will be a key factor in the decades ahead, and he foresees a future in which humanity must downsize significantly, both in total population and in the energy intensity of our lifestyles. He believes we’ll have no choice but to return to a more regionally focused way of life, depending on local resources, and doing a lot less travel and shipping. As one of the co-founders of the Association for the Study of Peak Oil, Colin Campbell’s view on the importance of oil to the global economy, and his vision of geological limits leading to declining oil production, has never wavered. And as a petroleum geologist with four decades of experience in finding and producing oil, including performing some of the first experiments with fracking, his knowledge of oil geology is unparalleled. His cautionary perspective serves to highlight the urgency of energy transition, because there are more reasons we need it to succeed in addition to eliminating carbon emissions, otherwise, oil scarcity may yet become a key factor in determining what our futures hold.

Geek rating: 4