JEREMY RIFKIN: How can we get to a sustainable energy future?

JEREMY RIFKIN, University of Pennsylvania economist and energy visionary

We need to create a sustainable new economic vision by bringing the Internet together with renewable energy. In the 19th century, print technology created a literate workforce with the communication skills to organize a First Industrial Revolution driven by coal and steam. Then, in the 20th century, centralized electricity provided the communication vehicles—telephone, radio, TV—to manage the Second Industrial Revolution, organized around the internal combustion engine. 

Today, the distributed communication technology of the Internet opens the door to a Third Industrial Revolution, based on adopting distributed energies: the sun, the wind, the geothermal heat under the ground, biomass, small hydro, ocean tides and waves. To get to a sustainable energy future, we need to bring together emerging communications and energy technologies, convert buildings to miniature wind, solar and geothermal power plants, link them through a power grid that uses hydrogen as a storage system, and use Internet communication technology to transform the power grid into an energy Internet that powers our homes and transportation.

This Third Industrial Revolution—the democratization of both information and power in one matrix—is what will change the whole frame of reference for everything we do in society.

Extended Interview

Read an in-depth interview with Jeremy Rifkin on the Third Industrial Revolution.


Related Interviews

What would it take to supply global energy needs with renewables?

Peggy Liu
PHOTO BY PHILIP GOSTELOW

Utility-scale energy storage, intermittent energy on the grid, and innovation are key to ramping up renewables, says energy expert Peggy Liu. Read the interview with Peggy Liu


Does the rebound effect kill the dream of decoupling economic growth from greenhouse gas emissions?

Does the rebound effect make the pursuit of energy efficiency futile? No, says economist Karen Turner. Read the interview with Karen Turner


How can we tap the energy of the ocean?

Paul Jacobson, program manager for waterpower with the Electric Power Research Institute, says creativity and funds are critical to tapping the ocean’s energy. Read the interview with Paul Jacobson


What will it take to achieve grid parity for solar power?

Can we make solar cheap enough to compete with fossil fuels? SunShot Initiative director Ramamoorthy Ramesh says it’s not going to be easy. Read the interview with Ramamoorthy Ramesh