The world is doomed to repeat four-year cycles of booms followed by crashes if we don’t get off oil, Jeremy Rifkin warned a Climate One audience in San Francisco on October 3. The solution, what he calls the Third Industrial Revolution, is the “Energy Internet,” a nervous system linking millions of small renewable energy producers.
For Rifkin, author of the new The Third Industrial Revolution: How Lateral Power Is Transforming Energy and Changing the World, a seminal event occurred in July 2008, when the price of oil hit $147 a barrel. “Prices for everything on the supply chain went through the roof, from food to petrochemicals. Purchasing power plummeted all over the world that month. An entire economic engine of the Industrial Revolution shut down,” he said.
“That was the great economic earthquake,” he went on. “The collapse of the financial markets 60 days later was the aftershock. Our world leaders are still dealing with the aftershock, and have not gone to the nub of the crisis."
The reason this is happening now, Rifkin said, is that the “world is made out of and moved by fossil fuels.” We have reached peak oil per capita and global peak oil production, he said, citing the International Energy Agency’s finding that peak oil production probably occurred in 2006, at 70 million barrels per day.
"Every time we try to re-grow the economy at the same growth rate we were growing before July 2008, the price of oil goes up, all of the other prices goes up, purchasing power goes down, and it collapses.” This is a wall we can’t go beyond under the current energy regime, he said. “We’re in this wild gyration of four-year cycles, where we’re going to try to re-grow, collapse, re-grow, collapse.”