The Big Switch. What will it take…?

28 08 2013

My latest offer on the sustainability or otherwise of renewables written by Dawn Stover generated quite a bit of anger, frustration, and resignation…….  feelings I have to say I personally experience constantly whenever I start thinking about our future predicaments.

Listen to the current electioneering (if you can bear it…), and the silence on energy security is deafening.  Climate Change as an election issue is only ever brought up by the Greens, even though according to the ABC’s vote compass more than 50% of Australians think more should be done about it.

Some analysts even believe that coal now has a limited life left.  David Hamilton and I agree that it will not be easy.  It might even get a whole lot harder if Tony Abbott wins the Lodge.  But here, I’m going to have an attempt at analysing the hurdles we face.


Personally, I see this as the biggest hurdle of all.  Many other countries have at least started by building up the manufacturing sectors needed to build the new shiny toys we need in the future.  China is the obvious standout, but the USA, Denmark, Germany, and Spain are right up there.  The fact that we are currently hitting Limits to Growth all over the world is a deepening worry for me that anything will get done….  A few commentators on Damnthematrix have said we need to end growth, yet, make no mistake, building all the toys will exacerbate growth, it will become the growth issue of the future.  Australia has barely got six years of economic oil left, and all our gas is going overseas with no plans whatever to build the infrastructure required to redirect it to the East Coast where most Australians live.  It will be hard to manufacture anything in an energy shortage… and yes even coal could become scarce sooner rather than later if nobody wants to mine it in the middle of an economic collapse because there’s no money in it….  Let’s not forget that during the Great Depression, it wasn’t lack of resources that caused the pain, it was lack of money.  Today, we face both…..


When I asked David Hamilton where the money would come from, he replied “I would think that a lot of it will need to come from not spending money on other things”.  That’s a fair enough answer, but those ‘other things’ might lose funding from lack of credit due to another financial crisis…….  so there may not be enough money to do ‘other things’ as well as the Big Switch.  Pessimistic of me?  As the US’ Quantitative Easing policy comes to an end, many analysts, especially those whom you might call ‘alternative’ economists like Chris Martenson and Charles Hugh Smith (you know, those guys who are on our side…) think the USA (and the US Dollar) is on the verge of collapse.  Which could even be why all the sabre rattling over Syria is coming to a crescendo.  If war breaks out in the Middle East, you can kiss your Big Switch goodbye…

Anyone following my rantings on this blog will know I’m convinced all debts will need to be cancelled.  Lots of people think I’m a complete crank over this, but I’ve never been more serious…  Apart from the fact it’s the only reason we have to have any economic growth at all, the debt burden is a burden that might make the application of the Big Switch almost impossible.  We need a new economic operating system…..  one that is neither Capitalism nor Socialism, but one that is sustainable, in the true sense of the word.  We need a new Marshall Plan……


For renewables to work at all, we need a serious attitude change among the populace.  The vast majority of Australians feel entitled to burning up as much energy as they like.  But that level of energy consumption using renewables is totally unrealistic.  Consumption must drop dramatically.  By no less than 50%, but by more like 80% in my not so humble opinion.  I’ve proven a lot can be achieved through energy efficiency here.  But houses cannot be successfully retrofitted to the standard achieved at Mon Abri…  And we don’t commute to daily jobs here, and everyone else will have to join us in this one.  Obviously, some people will need to be retrained from the many useless tasks they think of as ‘work’ to doing useful new tasks like building solar panels, wind turbines, and growing food locally.  We will need to end ‘the big commute’ just so we can build the future we need before it’s too late.  if it isn’t already…. ah!  there I go again……


Revolution; that’s what it will take to get our politicians kicking and screaming to the guillotine to change the way we do everything.  What, exactly, will it take for the people to revolt..?  A cyclone hitting Sydney?  Several straight years of drought in Adelaide such that it totally runs out of water and has to be abandoned?  A month of consecutive 40º+ in Hobart?  Or half a dozen floods in Brisbane over the next Summer?

It’s easy for groups like BZE to say their aim is ” to transform Australia from a 19th century fossil fuel based, emissions intensive, economy to a 21st-century renewable-energy-powered clean-tech economy”…..  but I wonder if they truly understand the big picture?  Or that they may be unfairly inflating people’s expectations beyond all possibilities of reality..?

And lastly, if a revolution is what is needed, will it be one like Egypt’s over resource shortages, instigated when it’s all too late…?  Will we have to nationalise our fossil fuel sources to achieve the desired goal?

And in the end I ask myself “do we even need all this energy”?  Might not the real answer be for us to live more simply so we may simply live….?

Over to you dear reader….  the comment box is awaiting your proposals…!




8 responses

28 08 2013
Shirley Goodbar

My father and I had this argument twenty years ago. I told him then and I repeat now, We don’t need to produce more energy—we need to use less. At the time he was 85 and I was 60. I haven’t changed my mind.

29 08 2013
29 08 2013

Graham…. I don’t see any solutions in this article, as interesting as it might be.

No mention of debt at all. Debt and Growth are joined at the hip like Siamese twins…..

29 08 2013

G’day Mike,
I agree all debts need to be cancelled, economies around the world have hit the limits of growth.

I think it is already too late for many of us, I fail to see a solution to the global crisis we are facing that will be sustainable for 7+ billion humans.
If Australia did make the big switch to being sustainable, how many other countries would/could do the same… Wouldn’t powerful military countries take what they want, starting a global resource war…

30 08 2013

We need to start with education. Basic facts first. For example, on average, each of us in the developed world consume about 200 kWh/day. In 2012, renewables in Britain generated 1.8 kWh/day for each person. 1 kWh is enough energy to have one 40W light bulb on for 24hours. Reality check time! These are basic facts everyone should know.

30 08 2013

“These are the basic facts everyone should know”

Ed, I produce more electricity than I use, grow almost all my food, avoid ‘stuff’ drive only necessary, live frugally and am tired of the resentment I get when I try to pass on to people the information they need to know but don’t want to hear.

By the sound of your post it appears that you would like to educate those resentful people. Well good luck mate, you’ll need it.

31 08 2013

You chose to live the way you do, without anyone forcing you to. Most people believe that energy scarcity will not happen in their lifetime because they are told this by media and politicians. Therefore, for them, what you do is illogical. We have only known a world in which energy production has grown. Within a decade all our fossil fuels will go into decline. It’s going to interesting how this is going to unfold. In time your lifestyle will become more normal as people start living like you, not out of choice but necessity. People will understand exactly how much 1kWh of energy is worth. Do you use your 6kW electric shower for 10mins or do you use it to run your 160W of lights in your home for 6 hours?

1 09 2013

Error, computer says NO!

“Duplicate comment detected; it looks as though you’ve already said that!”

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