Our industrial civilization was made possible by easily available coal and then by easily available oil.
All the easy fossil fuels, not to mention the easy metal oils, have been used up, but advanced technology makes it possible to extract fuel from shale oil, shale gas and tar sands, drill in the Arctic and under the oceans and move whole mountains to get at coal.
Lewis Dartnell, a UK Space Agency research fellow and author of The Knowledge: How to Rebuild Our World from Scratch, said it would be possible, but very, very difficult.
The most likely places for a rebirth of industrial civilization, he has written, are Norway and Labrador, which have forests for making charcoal and fast-flowing rivers for water power. These pre-industrial sources of energy just might generate enough power to create the materials needed for solar panels, electrical generators and other alternate industrial technologies.
I know enough not to pretend to predict the future, but the continuation of our industrial civilization is not guaranteed.
A nuclear war between the USA and Russia is still possible. Drug-resistant diseases such as Ebola could sweep the world. Global climate change could prove even more catastrophic than most scientists think.
The moral I draw is that the time to turn to renewable energy is now.
Can civilization reboot without fossil fuels? by Lewis Dartnell for Aeon.
Four surprising reasons why clean energy is gaining on fossil fuels by Michael T. Klare for TomDispatch (via Grist)