It turns out that my friend was right. Even lefty ideologues like Michael Lind are finally forced to admit that "Everything You've Heard About Fossil Fuels May Be Wrong"! It's a remarkable piece, especially because it appears in the left-wing journal, Salon. Lind writes:
The arguments for converting the U.S. economy to wind, solar and biomass energy have collapsed. The date of depletion of fossil fuels has been pushed back into the future by centuries -- or millennia. The abundance and geographic diversity of fossil fuels made possible by technology in time will reduce the dependence of the U.S. on particular foreign energy exporters, eliminating the national security argument for renewable energy. And if the worst-case scenarios for climate change were plausible, then the most effective way to avert catastrophic global warming would be the rapid expansion of nuclear power, not over-complicated schemes worthy of Rube Goldberg or Wile E. Coyote to carpet the world’s deserts and prairies with solar panels and wind farms that would provide only intermittent energy from weak and diffuse sources.
....Read the article here.
Eventually civilization may well run out of natural gas and other fossil fuels that are recoverable at a reasonable cost, and may be forced to switch permanently to other sources of energy. These are more likely to be nuclear fission or nuclear fusion than solar or wind power, which will be as weak, diffuse and intermittent a thousand years from now as they are today. But that is a problem for the inhabitants of the world of 2500 or 3000 A.D.
In the meantime, it appears that the prophets of an age of renewable energy following Peak Oil got things backwards. We may be living in the era of Peak Renewables, which will be followed by a very long Age of Fossil Fuels that has only just begun.
This is an amazing admission. Not only is the "renewable energy" fad sputtering and about to expire, but the abundance of cheap energy also undermines the major tenets of another lefty cause -- the "new urbanism" which assumes that expensive energy will reverse the flight of middle class people from urban areas. It also is a repudiation of much of the current administration's energy policy. If the lefties at Salon can accept that, maybe the idea stands a chance of penetrating the minds of even the most benighted liberal. At least we can hope.