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Energy, pollution and climate change

03 March, 2021

Energy, pollution and climate change

Jillian Anable

Christian Brand

Research paper   Transport & Mobility

Jillian Anable and Christian Brand


Mobility is a service that demands energy. Energy, in turn, is fraught with complexity in terms of its forms, availability, infrastructure, ownership, extraction, conversion and combustion, and the sociopolitical implications of all of these factors. It is also complex in that the fundamental laws of thermodynamics render it simultaneously extremely productive and profligately wasteful. This has led to a science and policy of energy conservation which is a testing mix of calls to use energy resources more sparingly while applying an engineering focus on maximising work and minimising waste.

Turnbull (2017: 26) traces the history of energy resource conservation using the example of steam engines, which he explains led to ‘industrialists and engineers becoming preoccupied with using fuels with utmost efficiency, and maximizing the work that could be derived from irreversibly consumed and geologically distributed resources such as coal.’ Turnbull is by no means the first author choosing to adopt transport cases to illustrate the consequences of the homage paid to energy. In Energy & Equity, Illich (1974) described how cars and aeroplanes force people to devote more and more time, money and effort to getting themselves from here to there each day. He claims there would be no ‘crisis’ in energy if society chose to adopt speed limits that favoured walking and cycling.

Publication details

Anable, J. and Brand, C. 2019. Energy, pollution and climate change. In: Docherty, I. & Shaw, J. (Eds.) Transport Matters, pp. 55-82. Bristol University Press. doi: 10.46692/9781447329572.005Opens in a new tab

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