On the Cusp of the Third Industrial Revolution, boomer warriorJeremy Rifkin’s book, The Third Industrial Revolutionhas provided the inspiration for this postThe premise of Rifkin’s book is that fundamental economic change occurs when new communication technologies converge with new energy regimes.

“The industrial revolution powered by oil and other fossil fuels is spiraling into a dangerous endgame,” says Rifkin. “Many people have simply not come to grips with the fact that the fossil-fuel driven industrial age is ending.”

Jeremy Rifkin explores how the merging of Internet technology and Renewable Energy has placed our civilization on the cusp of the Third Industrial Revolution. He asks us to imagine hundreds of millions of people producing their own green energy in their homes, offices and factories and sharing it with each other in an “energy internet” as we do now when we create and share information online.

The Third Industrial Revolution is in its infancy but already it is starting to change the way we do things and conduct business. There is a rising awareness of the dangers inherent in the fossil-fuel dominated order of the two previous industrial revolutions involving first coal and then oil. The political and economic narrative is shifting to pricing carbon, mitigating against climate change and generating the will to forge an international agreement for curbing emissions at the Paris 2015 world summit. This next agreement that will replace the Kyoto Accord which has been a dismal failure.

The conventional hierarchical top-down structure of society which has characterized the social, economic and political life of the past century is giving way to more distributive and collaborative relationships in the emerging green industrial age. “We are in the midst of a profound shift in the very way society is structured, away from hierarchical power and toward lateral power,” says Rifkin.

Five Pillars of the Third Industrial Revolution

1. Shifting to renewable energy.

Recent reports and studies have opened the door to a more rapid transition to a lower carbon world. The IPCC’s Third Report stresses the urgency of shifting to clean sources of energy to avoid catastrophic climate change. The IPCC further concludes that the roll-out of clean energy would have a negligible effect on economic growth. In fact, the June 2014 release of the REMI Report in the United States reveals a convincing picture of The Economic, Climate, Fiscal, Power and Demographic Impact of a National Fee & Dividend Carbon Tax which would facilitate the migration of energy to renewables and away from fossil fuels.

Carbon Fee and Dividend. Its Time Has Come, boomerwarrior.org

2. Transforming the building stock of every continent into green micro-power plants to collect renewable energies on site.

The shift to renewable industry is happening much faster than anticipated. Renewable energy can be found everywhere; it is not site specific as are hydro sites or nuclear plants. Renewable energy can be decentralized. Each building is potentially a micro power plant. There are hundreds of millions of buildings around the globe “that can suck up renewable energies on site – the sun on the roof, the wind coming up the external walls, the sewage flowing out of the house, the geothermal heat under the buildings and so on.” (Source: Third Industrial Revolution).

On the Cusp of the Third Industrial Revolution, boomer warrior

 

3. Deploying hydrogen and other storage technologies in every building and throughout the infrastructure to store intermittent energies.

The recent growth of storage technologies for intermittent renewable energy sources is propelling the clean energy industry forward at an accelerating pace. But the future of storage technology lies in hydrogen. The European Commission has recognized this by funding the Fuel Cells and Hydrogen Joint Technology Initiative which is a public-private venture designed to move hydrogen from research to development and to deployment across Europe. This is how hydrogen storage works:

When the sun is shining on photovoltaic panels on the roof, electricity is generated, most of which is used instantly to power the building. If, however, there is a surplus of electricity that is not immediately needed, it can be used in the process of electrolysis to sequester hydrogen in a storage system. When the sun isn’t shining, the hydrogen can be transformed back into electricity by a fuel cell to provide power. (Source: The Third Industrial Revolution).

On the Cusp of the Third Industrial Revolution, boomer warrior

 

4. Using Internet technologies to transform the power grid of every continent into an energy-sharing intergrid that acts just like the Internet (millions of buildings generating a small amount of renewable energy locally, on-site, selling surplus green electricity back to the grid and sharing it with their continental neighbours).

The idea of developing the ultimate smart grid – the intelligent energy network – allowing millions of people producing their own power and to share and distribute surplus energy across communities and from peer-to-peer is rapidly gaining currency in the clean technology sector. “Just as the the Internet created thousands of new businesses and millions of new jobs, so too will the intelligent electricity network, except this network will be 100 or 1,000 times larger than the Internet,” says Marie Hattar, (vice-president of marketing) at Cisco. Smart grids, micro-generation and distributed power are changing the future of energy.

On the Cusp of the Third Industrial Revolution, boomer warrior

5. Transitioning transportation to electric plug-in and fuel cell vehicles that can buy and sell green electricity on a smart, continental, interactive power grid.

For Pillar 5 to work, a comprehensive network of charging points for electric vehicles is required. This will be possible as millions of buildings are converted to mini power plants (See Pillar 2 above). And the vehicles themselves are small mobile power points on wheels:

Since the typical car is parked 96 percent of the time, it can be plugged back into the interactive electricity network to provide premium power back to the grid. An all-electric and hydrogen fuel cell fleet powered by green energy has four times the electricity storage capacity of the existing national power grid in the United States. If just 25 percent of the vehicles were to sell energy back to the grid….it would replace every conventional centralized power plant in the country. (Source: The Third Industrial Revolution).

On the Cusp of the Third Industrial Revolution, boomer warrior

The Third Industrial Revolution’s closing paragraphs are of critical importance, pointing out that humanity is at the crossroads.

Civilizations throughout history have experienced critical moments of reckoning where they have been forced to radically change course to meet a new future or face the prospect of demise. Some were able to transform themselves in time; others were not.

What will our civilization choose? Demise or Change?
_________

Rolly Montpellier, boomer warriorRolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. He’s a Climate Reality leader, a blogger and an Climate Activist. Rolly has been published in several online publications – Climate Change Guide, World Daily, Examiner, The Canadian, 350Ottawa, ClimateMama, MyEarth360, GreenDivas, The Elephant, Countercurrents, Georgian Bay News.

Some of Rolly’s articles have also appeared in newspapers such as The Hill Times and the Kingston Whig.

You can follow him on FacebookTwitter and Linkedin.

14 COMMENTS

  1. This book outlines where we should be headed Rolly – thanks for sharing it.

    I hope that Solar Power becomes so efficient (and economical) that we will begin to power lots of things with it. Cars might also benefit from having solar roofs …. the whole roof could absorb solar energy to power all the devices within the car and partially generate power for the engine.

    I have seen solar powered digital clocks now… it is just a matter of time before manufacturers start to rethink powering radios, tv’s and our laptops…. exciting thought!

    We unplugged from the mains today on our little boat – it was a partly cloudy day in the UK, but our four 100-watt solar panels still managed to power our fridge, a clock, a laptop and tv on standby mode, a water guage and an inverter (the gadget that converts 12-volt into 240-volt. This is the way to get free energy (once the capital investment is recovered).

    We also went out to buy (mostly for other people we will be visiting in Spain), lots of LED bulbs – a tenth of the power used by conventional bulbs for the same light. The price on these is coming down to very reasonable levels too…

    Price is everything — people will switch if they can save money and renewables prove that they can!

    • Yes Colette – it’s all about price. Personally I don’t much care why people end up doing the right thing. It can be because of price, morality, guilt, for their grandchildren’s future. Whatever it takes to get us all to moving away from fossil-fuel generated energy.

      I envy your nomadic lifestyle. Sounds romantic and thrilling in spite of the challenges you undoubtedly face on a daily basis.

      Thanks for the interest in BoomerWarrior.

  2. Excellent review and summary of the most important package … this short précis is just what I needed to start my days’ work this Saturday morning. Thanks, Rolly!

    Only one post script, and that is that the dismantling of the oil infrastructure must be discussed openly and transparently. The costs associated with and the business decisions that will be made as a result of an increasing accumulation of clean-up and recycling and all that goes with abandoning 750 refineries when allocated to the remaining dwindling production of gasoline, diesel and kerosene will add an extra exponential component onto any carbon pollution fee that might be levied on extracted hydrocarbons. My fear is that such a component could have unintended consequences, including premature and calamitous shutting down of refining corporations, which would leave us high and dry with an unexpected demand-supply gap well before carbon-free substitutes for gasoline, diesel, kerosene, fuel oil and other liquid petroleum fuels are fully distributed in sufficient quantities to keep our vehicles and furnaces fed. This is one significant weakness of REMI which should be run with these economic considerations for as complete understanding of the economic impacts.

    • Doug – I understand your concern over the yet undocumented cost of shutting down the fossil fuel economy prematurely – a very good point that I had not yet thought about. That said, we have no choice but to move forward with pricing carbon and leaving billions of tons of carbon in the ground.

  3. Hi Rolly:

    Very interesting presentation of the Book of Jeremy Rifkin “The Third Industrial Revolution” on the potential of the Internet and Renewable Energy Technologies.

    My opinion is that it can be not an universal cure as is presented due to a problem of material resources, namely the “rare eaths” or criticaly special metals that use the Renewable Energy devices that underlay the principal argument, at least not yet in the case os Solar and Wind Energy.

    Maybe that the enabled poor people of the third and possible first world of the future can obtain electricity by recycled old vehicles’s engines abandoned in landfills for to do wind turbines and small hydro power; and using the Technic of Compost and Passive Solar Energy and Insolation … and part of that varied enabling work – which I think we must have in mind for children, youngs and future generations – is already made, examples of which exist in the vulnerable “YouTube” and the work realized by rhe organization “Village Earth” in her collection of CDs “Appropriate Technology Library”.

    I enclose below a Link that explain the issue of “rare earths” more completely:
    http://e360.yale.edu/feature/a_scarcity_of_rare_metals_is_hindering_green_technologies/2711/

  4. Back in the 1980’s &90’s,you couldn’t pick up a newspaper without reading about Jeremy Rifkin
    taking legal action against biotechnology.He filed a ton of lawsuits against it.His main concern was that scientists and biotech companies were rushing to use this technology without all the facts.He raised concerns and issues and warned of unforeseen consequences.But now,with his
    Third Industrial Revolution,Rifkin’s doing the exact opposite.He’s getting people all riled up and
    excited about renewable energy.He’s getting them all anxious to jump on the Third Industrial
    band wagon and make the switch to renewable energy.The problem here is that Rifkin’s not
    raising concerns or issues with renewable energy like he did with biotechnology.He’s not
    questioning the cost and safety of hydrogen storage and the reliability of solar panels.Back in
    1989,Rifkin filed a lawsuit against NASA.It was to prevent the space shuttle Atlantis from lifting
    off.The reason for the lawsuit was that Atlantis’s payload was a galilieo space probe.It was
    powered by plutonium.Rifkin feared an accident on Atlantis,like what happened on the Challenger shuttle would rain plutonium back to earth,contaminating hundreds of people.Well,
    the Challenger accident was a hydrogen explosion,caused by hydrogen leaking from the fuel
    tank.So,if Rifkin was worried about a hydrogen explosion occuring on Atlantis,then HOW can
    he be going around promoting hydrogen storage systems and assuring people that storing
    hydrogen is safe?As for solar energy,there was an article in the NY times in 2014.It was about
    this warehouse in east los angeles that had solar panels installed on it’s roof.These panels
    that were supposed to last 25 to 30 years,started failing after only two years.Reasons for the panels failing vary from using untested materials to cutting corners to importing them from
    China were they’re cheaply made.So WHY isn’t Rifkin taking legal action against these solar
    panel companies and demanding an investigation as to why they’re letting this happen?You
    think Rifkin would let the biotechnology industry get away with something like this?The
    problem is that Rifkin’s playing favorites.Unlike his opposition to biotechnology,Rifkin’s in favor
    of renewable energy.He’s not going to listen to any problems or complaints about it.He doesn’t care if people get stuck with expensive hydrogen storage systems or defective solar
    panels.All Rifkin cares about is putting solar panels on every roof in the country,so that his
    Third Industrial Revolution becomes a reality at our expense.

    • Thanks for your comment John. I did not know about Rifkin’s earlier court battles. And of course he’s not the only one who is playing that game of appearing to be a climate change hero only to attempt to profit from it.

      But the fact is that the next energy/technology revolution has started with or without Rifkin’s leadership. It’s not clear from your comment if you’re advocating against renewables. If you are, then are you saying that our civilization should continue to burn fossil fuels until the planet chokes? Surely you must be in favor of a clean energy.

      Best wishes in 2015.

  5. Rolly,don’t get me wrong.I’m all in favor of renewable energy.It’s Rifkin’s Third Industrial Revolution that I’m opposed to.In his book,the Hydrogen Economy,Rifkin predicted that by the
    end of the decade(2010),we’d be mass producing fuel cell cars.Well,here it is 2015.So,where
    are all these fuel cell cars?Rifkin has no idea what it would cost to implement a hydrogen
    infastructure like the one Rifkin’s in favor of.I’m opposed to fuel cells and hydrogen storage
    because in addition to both being expensive,storing hydrogen is dangerous.There’s a website
    on the internet(WATERPOWEREDCAR.COM).It has articles and information on people who
    have converted cars to run on hydrogen through on-board electrolysis.This is what they should
    be working on instead of fuel cells.Why spend a ton of money on a fuel cell car when the car
    you’re driving can be converted to produce it’s own hydrogen?You could have a similar system
    in your home with a one cylinder hydrogen engine with a baffle system to eliminate noise.You
    use solar during the day.At night,the engine would take over,running a generator to power the
    house.The hydrogen fuel could also be used to power the furnance to heat the home.The main
    advantage here is that you’re producing the hydrogen on demand as you need it.You’re not
    storing it,hence you’re eliminating the danger of an explosion.

  6. Thanks John for the clarification. I’m glad that you favor clean renewable energy. I understand your concern with Rifkin’s hydrogen economy. I’ve not read that particular book.

    I have heard of research in the use of water to power vehicles but my immediate thinking is that this is quite futuristic. If it’s so easy to do then why are we not doing it?

    As we continue to explore more innovative ways of transitioning away from fossil fuels, we are finding that there’s more than one way to do it. And that’s what makes me believe that the clean energy revolution will succeed. Coal replaced horse power and oil supplanted coal as the number one energy source. Fifty years from now, our grandchildren and their children will look back and ask “what were they thinking?”

  7. Rolly,the reason we’re not using using water powered vehicles,is that the oil companies have
    done everything they can to suppress this technology from becoming available to the general
    public.They’re worried this sort of thing would put them out of business.If they were smart,they
    could make this work for them.What these oil companies could do is take these abandoned
    factories throughout the country and refurbish them into facilities for converting cars to run on
    hydrogen.Think of all the jobs this would create.The oil companies would still get their money by
    charging for the conversion.The money that people would save on fuel could be used to pay
    for food,rent,utilities,etc..It’s one way to get the economy going.Anyway,these oil companies
    better wise up.They think that just because they have billions in assets,they’re invulnerable,we’ll
    they’re not.Look what happened to IBM and the phone company.They had billions in assets too.
    Their mistake was underestimating competition from smaller companies and advancement in
    newer technologies.Now they’re struggling to survive.KODAK learned that lesson by waiting too long to make the switch to digital technology and had to declare bankruptcy.The same thing will happen to the oil companies if they don’t wise up and switch to renewable energy.
    Another thing is the constant drilling and now fracking for oil.Remember that BP disaster in the Gulf?If they’re not careful,we’ll have a major catastrophe that will make the Mt. Saint
    Helen’s eruption look like Old Faithful.

    • Great response to the article John.

      And I agree totally with the premise that oil companies will suffer the same fate at the Kodaks, and phone companies that have ignored the growth of cellular technology. Clean energy is growing by leaps and bounds. Many say it will never produce enough energy to replace fossil fuels but they are wrong. Coal replaced horse power, oil has passed coal and solar & wind will eventually become dominant. The question remains how much time will this take? And of course, can our planet take many more decades of carbon emissions spiraling out of control?

      If world leaders cannot come to an aggressive emissions reduction agreement in Paris in December 2015, we will face runaway global warming within a few decades. I’m afraid it will be too late then in spite of the accelerated growth of clean energy technology.

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