So what is the problem with cheap energy? If something is cheap we tend to waste it, and this is the terrible and virtually unacknowledged truth about energy:
Almost all the fossil fuel we have consumed has been wasted, and some has been “worse than wasted”.
By “wasted”, I don’t mean to deny that billions of human beings have enjoyed the benefits of cheap energy: greater warmth, faster and more comfortable transport, and so on. But the point about this energy use is that there is nothing to show for it afterwards.
By “worse than wasted” I mean that the cheapness of fossil fuel has accustomed us to a state of affairs that is unsustainable; and the path back to sustainability will involve a great deal of suffering, in addition to the suffering flowing from ecosystem damage that has already happened or is guaranteed to happen from climate change that is already in the pipeline. There are too many people in the rich part of the world using far too many resources per capita; and remember that the population in the poor part of the world also has a dependence on cheap fossil fuel (remember that use of nitrogen fertilizer – synthesized from natural gas – has gone up in the developing world as part of the “Green revolution”).