The future green economy is not one of sacrifice and resource constraints. I predict we will have unlimited cheap green energy and will consequently easily address the water and food challenges of a growing population.
The current playbook for protecting the climate typically goes like this: consume less. Don’t eat beef. Don’t fly. Commute less. Pay exorbitant energy bills and this will ensure you only use what you truly need. If you really care about climate, you must sacrifice.
And yes, in the near-term there is truth and merit to this. Because we are in a fossil fuel-based economy, we resisted taking action for decades, and we must act quickly. In the near-term energy efficiency, reducing food and energy waste and being mindful consumers will in fact bend the curve on greenhouse emissions and help us avoid climate disasters. However, the actual likely end-game in the not too distant future after the transition to a green economy is a more abundant and healthier energy system.
Some combination of all the clean energy sources we are pursuing will lead to enough energy generation that we can stop metering and billing per unit. Future generations will laugh at the idea of prices per kWh in the same way that our kids shake their heads when they hear we used to pay per minute and per kB mobile phone charges.
Modular nuclear fission reactors (already in existence and getting built), nuclear fusion and deep geothermal energy (in very advanced stages of development), energy storage for renewables (literally hundreds if not thousands of efforts to improve batteries, create new battery compositions and explore novel methods for short, medium and long-duration storage) and renewables such as wind and solar (already proven and incredibly cost-effective), are being developed and/or deployed around the world. Any of many plausible scenarios on the evolution and combination of these various energy sources can ensure we can all have green, limitless, cheap energy. Combining this with novel ways to electrify and synthesize all sorts of production and manufacturing, we could be resource unconstrained in a way we never have before. A highly electrified economy in which the marginal cost of electricity is negligible unlocks value potential we cannot even imagine today.
So for those concerned that the energy transition will dampen economic growth or limit human flourishing and quality of life, I have good news: the other side of the tunnel is not only not much worse, it’s likely even better: abundant clean energy, less pollution, and less noise. A stronger economy and a healthier planet. I can’t wait to see it.