Charles A.S. Hall
This chapter outlines the nature of energy and its importance for our economy and society. We live in the age of petroleum. Petroleum – in the form of oil and natural gas – has driven economic growth in rich nations, replacing the energy of animal and human labour and increasing the material standard of living. Many of the high-quality deposits of oil and natural gas are being drawn down, decreasing the ‘energy return on investment’ provided by these fuels. Fossil fuels such as oil, gas, and coal will have to be phased out if we are adequately to address climate change. Questions remain as to whether a growth-based, industrial, consumerist economy can be sustained by renewable energy replacements.