Charles Mann's complex, dark story about energy in the 21st century asks what will happen if carbon-based energy becomes renewable. This is a scientific and technical question that helps us understand more about the geological reality of the world. But the very subject raises a whole set of political questions. In light of global warming, should we be using fossil fuels at all? How should we account for their externalized costs? Could we develop the political will to keep fossil fuels in the ground? Are cleaner alternatives available for countries building most of the world's new infrastructure? To address these issues, we invited experts in environmental science, energy and foreign affairs to debate the Mann story.

No, Really: We're Going to Keep Burning Oil—and Lots of It Reuters

No, Really: We're Going to Keep Burning Oil—and Lots of It

No matter how much we wish it were otherwise, the economics favor burning fossil fuels.

It Doesn't Matter If We Never Run Out of Oil: We Won't Want to Burn It Anymore Reuters

It Doesn't Matter If We Never Run Out of Oil: We Won't Want to Burn It Anymore

Like whale oil in the 1860s, oil today has become uncompetitive -- even at low prices -- and that will only become truer with time.

Yes, Unconventional Fossil Fuels Are That Big of a Deal Reuters

Yes, Unconventional Fossil Fuels Are That Big of a Deal

And the evidence is solid that they are well on their way to changing the world's energy choices.

Green Lifestyle Choices Don't Change the Systems That Make Fossil Fuels Attractive Reuters

Green Lifestyle Choices Don't Change the Systems That Make Fossil Fuels Attractive

Which is why we need a structural solution, like a carbon tax.

Are Methane Hydrates Really Going to Change Geopolitics? Reuters

Are Methane Hydrates Really Going to Change Geopolitics?

Renewables are on a much more solid path to affordability than the exotic fuel.

What Unconventional Fossil Fuels Change About Our Energy Picture, and What They Don't Reuters

What Unconventional Fossil Fuels Change About Our Energy Picture, and What They Don't

A deep dive into the nature and complications of alt fuels like fracked natural gas, methane hydrate, and tar sands oil

What Has the Pursuit of Fossil Fuels Cost Us? And Who Has Had to Pay? flickr/fatguyinalittlecoat

What Has the Pursuit of Fossil Fuels Cost Us? And Who Has Had to Pay?

Whether or not we can "run out of oil," we have to be asking bigger questions about the costs of our energy systems.

We Don't Need Exotic Fuels to Cook the Earth, Coal Will Do Reuters

We Don't Need Exotic Fuels to Cook the Earth, Coal Will Do

We've long known that we have more than enough fossil fuels to create unimaginable levels of global warming.

Panelists

  • Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins Phaedra Ellis-Lamkins
    Chief Executive Officer of Green For All
  • Maggie Koerth-Baker Maggie Koerth-Baker
    New York Times Magazine columnist and science editor at BoingBoing.net
  • Michael Levi Michael Levi
    David M. Rubenstein Senior Fellow for Energy and the Environment at the Council on Foreign Relations
  • Chris Nelder Chris Nelder
    Energy analyst and consultant
  • Gregory Nemet Gregory Nemet
    Assistant Professor of Public Affairs and Environmental Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison