Energy Revolution? More Like a Crawl

Seminar Overview

When political and Silicon Valley-style leaders talk about energy transitions, they tend to sell them as something that can be accomplished in a matter of years. But the fundamental physical realities that determine the transformation of energy systems do not behave that way: they are improving steadily, but far more slowly. Dr. Smil’s seminar explored the current state of global and major national energy dependencies and appraised the likely speed of their transformation. The desirable development of new renewables should not be guided by wishful preferences and arbitrary targets. It should proceed at a determined yet measured pace that ensures lasting benefits. Fossil fuel conversions can be made substantially more efficient leading to reduced environmental impacts but these solutions must go beyond efficiency. How much energy do we really need? Using more energy, albeit more efficiently and with lower specific environmental effects, is unlikely to change our fortunes — yet no serious consideration has been given to how to use less, much less.

About the Speaker: Vaclav Smil (C.M., FRSC), Distinguished Professor Emeritus, University of Manitoba

Vaclav Smil does interdisciplinary research in the fields of energy, environmental and population change, food production and nutrition, technical innovation, risk assessment, and public policy. He has published 35 books and more than 400 papers on these topics. He is a Distinguished Professor Emeritus at the University of Manitoba, a Fellow of the Royal Society of Canada (Science Academy), and the Member of the Order of Canada; in 2010 he was listed by Foreign Policy among the top 100 global thinkers. He has worked as a consultant for many US, EU and international institutions, has been an invited speaker in nearly 400 conferences and workshops in the USA, Canada, Europe, Asia and Africa, and has lectured at many universities in North America, Europe and East Asia. For more info, visit

Watch a video recording of the public lecture:




A Fondation 3E Speaker Program event, co-hosted with TISED at McGill University