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Energy and CivilizationA History$
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Vaclav Smil

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780262035774

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: January 2018

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262035774.001.0001

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Fossil-Fueled Civilization

Fossil-Fueled Civilization

(p.295) 6 Fossil-Fueled Civilization
Energy and Civilization

Vaclav Smil

The MIT Press

This chapter discusses the rise of a fossil fuel-driven civilization. Modern civilization depends on extracting immense energy stores, depleting finite fossil fuel deposits that cannot be replenished even on time scales of a magnitude longer than the existence of the human species. By turning to these rich stores we have created societies that transform unprecedented amounts of energy, resulting in enormous improvements in agricultural productivity and crop yields. This chapter considers how unprecedented power has sparked a tremendous increase in consumption of energy, particularly fossil fuels and electricity, in areas such as modern agriculture, transportation, and information and communication. It also examines the contribution of energy to industrialization and economic growth and concludes with an assessment of the negative consequences of high energy use by modern societies.

Keywords:   modern civilization, power, energy consumption, fossil fuels, electricity, modern agriculture, transportation, communication, industrialization, economic growth

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