“Nobody Takes the Renewable Energy Transition Seriously” by Richard Heinberg

Note: Since Michael Moore’s latest documentary premiered on Earth Day, quite a few reviews of have appeared–most of them scathing, but few of them addressing the underlying message of the movie: that a transition to renewable energy will be impossible without a corresponding reduction in our energy use, that is, a drastic reduction in our consumption. Heinberg (who appears in the film) has written his own review, and while not without criticism of the film, he addresses the underlying message head-on.

What follows are excerpts from two articles Heinberg published this month, the aforementioned review and another article entitled, “Nobody Takes the Renewable Energy Transition Seriously.” You can read both them in their entirety here.


Altogether, the only realistic way to make the transition [to renewables] in industrial countries like the US is to begin reducing overall energy usage substantially, eventually running the economy on a quarter, a fifth, or maybe even a tenth of current energy. …

Is it true that mainstream enviros have oversold renewables? Yes. They have portrayed the transition away from fossil fuels as mostly a political problem; the implication in many of their communications is that, if we somehow come up with the money and the political will, we can replace oil with solar and continue living much as we do today, though with a clear climate conscience. That’s an illusion that deserves shattering. …

The future will be renewable; there simply isn’t any other option. What is very much in question, however, is the kind of society renewable energy can support. …

Mainstream enviros will hate this movie because it exposes some of their real failings. By focusing on techno-fixes, they have sidelined nearly all discussion of overpopulation and overconsumption. Maybe that’s understandable as a marketing strategy, but it’s a mistake to let marketing consultants sort truth from fiction for us. …


When our team at Post Carbon Institute spent a year studying the opportunities and roadblocks of a renewable energy transition, we concluded that industrial nations like the United States would have to scale back their overall energy usage considerably—perhaps by three-quarters or more—in order to get along without fossil fuels. …

A serious energy transition goal would describe, in detail, a smaller economy that nevertheless meets people’s genuine needs. …

You can read the articles in their entirety here and here.

Published by John Halstead

John Halstead is the author of *Another End of the World is Possible*, in which he explores what it would really mean for our relationship with the natural world if we were to admit that we are doomed. John is a native of the southern Laurentian bioregion and lives in Northwest Indiana, near Chicago. He is a co-founder of 350 Indiana-Calumet, which worked to organize resistance to the fossil fuel industry in the Region. John was the principal facilitator of “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.” He strives to live up to the challenge posed by the Statement through his writing and activism. John has written for numerous online platforms, including Patheos, Huffington Post, PrayWithYourFeet.org, and Gods & Radicals. He is Editor-at-Large of HumanisticPaganism.com. John also facilitates climate grief support groups climate grief support groups affiliated with the Good Grief Network.

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