Grantham Seminar | How global fossil fuel use became unsustainable, 1950-2017
Simon Pirani, Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, will be the speaker for this seminar.
The facts of the global consumption growth of coal, oil and gas are at odds with ever-more-insistent claims that we are moving to a post-fossil-fuel era. The drivers of consumption growth are very strong. The presentation will put them in historical perspective, focusing on the period since 1950. This includes the post-war boom, the 1970s oil price shocks, the acceleration of consumption growth in developing countries, and the failure to curb consumption since the discovery in the 1980s of the global warming effect. An interpretation will be offered emphasising that fossil fuels are consumed via social, economic and technological systems. Consumption growth has been driven by processes of industrialisation; changes in the labour process; electrification; urbanisation; motorisation; and by household material consumption and consumerism. Analysis needs to reflect the way these systems work, integrating flow analysis and distinguishing discretionary from non-discretionary consumption.
Simon Pirani is author of a global history of fossil fuel consumption since 1950, to be published by Pluto Press in early 2018. He is Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Oxford Institute for Energy Studies, where he has worked since 2007, mainly researching natural gas markets in the former Soviet countries. He has previously published books on Russian history and written about energy and economics as a journalist.