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Jeremy Rifkin: The Third Industrial Revolution

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...

"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.”

The solution is a plan based on five pillars, which is being implemented in the European Union: 1) Renewable energy targets: such as the EU’s 20% by 2020 mandate 2) Green buildings: over the next 40 years, Europe plans to convert its 191 million buildings into energy-efficient, micro power plants 3) Energy storage: batteries, flywheels, and hydrogen used to smooth the intermittency of renewables 4) “Energy Internet”: create a central nervous system so that buildings can talk to the grid and sell or store power depending on prices 5) Plug-in electric and hydrogen fuel cell vehicles...

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