300 Years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Seconds

300 Years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Seconds

by Michael K. Stone

richard heinberg - 300 years of fossil fueled growth

The Post Carbon Institute (PCI) condenses the story of our dependence on the remnants of ancient sunlight to five minutes in "300 Years of Fossil Fuels in 300 Seconds." 

"Now that we're reaching the end of cheap and abundant oil and coal supplies," says PCI, "we're in for an exciting ride. While there's a real risk that we'll fall off a cliff, there's still time to control our transition to a post-carbon future." "300 Years" is a lively and engaging recapitulation of how we got to where this roller coaster ride has taken us, and why remaining on it is no longer an option.

The video, written and narrated by Post Carbon Fellow Richard Heinberg and designed by San Francisco's Monstro Design, won Best Video in the Small Nonprofit category in the recent YouTube/See3 DoGooder Nonprofit Video Awards. PCI received one of four top prizes in that competition, in which thousands of organizations participated.



4 comments posted

coal mining

Submitted by coal mining (not verified) on Wed, 2012-04-04 08:20.

Have you seen whats been reported in coal industry and coal reports lately? The latest coal market news is all about emerging countries are predicting to use large amounts of thermal coal for power generation and coal mining for steel production and they are investing heavily onshore and offshore to secure the coal they need so that they can meet increasing demand for electricity and steel. Cherry of

Excellent video - but I fear we are too far gone

Submitted by BPM (not verified) on Fri, 2011-06-03 14:23.

This is an excellent, all encomapssing video. Particularly, I'm glad that it encorporates insight into the economic side of things, specifically the comment that our generation has been witnessing the end of growth as we've known it under the last few hundred years industrial based capitalism (the last few decades of recessions, bubble/burst economics, and fall of large, heavily leveraged financial institutions highlights this quite nicely).

I would love to hear the author expand on the economic and political hurdles we face in order to change our current oil based infrastructure. Personally and unfortunately, I think we're so far deep that the global economy actually needs to collapse before we can solve ecological problems on a global scale. My argument is as follows.

Currently, politicians rely so heavily on private contributors to their campaigns that they are completely at the mercy of the largest corporations for funding (For example, the Bush administration was heavily the oil industry; also, the Obama campaigns largest contributors were or were tied to Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, and JP Morgan Chase). Most of these corporations have massive interests based on our world of carbon based infrastructure and industrialized capitalism. If a politician wants to drive ecological change, they are stepping on big oil's toes. They won't get enough money or support to win campaigns, and they won't get elected.

So what if every single politician were to band together to stand against corporate interests? Well of course this cannot and will never happen in our irreversable world of partisan politics, where first priority is power and second priority is governing. Someone will pander to corporate interests to stay in power (not to mention further their own careers).

Further to this (and less cynically) is that the Western world is so desperately far in debt that they are incredibly reliant on tax dollars from large corporations just to stay afloat - In fact, America just came close to defaulting on their foreign debt interest payments for the first time ever. So not only can politicians only get to power by playing to corporate interests, but government itself is so reliant on their tax dollars that they will be crippled if they don't provide policies that allow these coroprations to stay profitable. Currently, ecological policies are not sufficiently economically beneficial and green industries are not profitable enough to generate enough tax dollars to wrestle power away from our oil based infrastructure.

I believe power is so centralized and we are so entrenched in this system that only a massive financial collapse can lead to a situation where power will shift. The problem is, when we get to the other side of that financial collapse, is it worth the massive financial hardship we will have caused to the general population, and will we even have the resources and ability to tackle the environmental issues we were trying to fix in the first place? And what of the crippled and deteriorating infrastructure that this will leave behind - will we have the ability to rebuild a new one?

Now, there's also the slight outside possibility that the corporate world will catch on to its own impending demise (by way of inevitable financial crisis in our current model of industrial growth based capitalism), and drive their own change in order to try and stay in power after massive changes to the way the world's infrastructure is built. But that would take a joint effort by competing businesses, every one of whom would be afraid of getting hung out to dry by the others. The economy is so leveraged and business is so competitive that I just don't see any of them taking on that risk on any scale more than a marginally incremental level. In other words, they won't risk shooting themselves in the foot if they fear that everyone else is going to leave them in a wheelchair anyway.

So, folks, I'm afraid we're headed for one of two things. The first, a dirty, filthy world where we all go poor very slowly. The second, a huge financial crisis, unpredicable sociological turmoil, and very likely the end of the Western Empire. Personally, I think we're headed for the second option. As history has shown us, all major empires are made to fall - they all become too successful to be sustainable and they all collapse on themselves. We're at that point - but hey, the way our economy has been going we just might collapse in time to leave a relatively clean world behind us. So fear not ecological champions - corporate pollutors will probably kill themselves off before you can even do anything about it.

Video - 300 Years

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 2011-04-21 06:40.

Great video. More people should see it. Will you grant permission for us to show this in our bi-monthly newsletter to customers and on our website?

300 Years of fossil fuel in 300 seconds

Submitted by Caveman Home Companion (not verified) on Mon, 2011-04-18 12:26.

This was fascinating, informative and scary! I'm buying a bike.

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.
This question is for testing whether you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.

© 2004-2015
Center for Ecoliteracy. All rights reserved.