So what’s the best possible scenario? Suppose everyone suddenly got past denial and ignorance and agreed we need to work together to minimize the impact of declining oil, plus focus on the technologies and industries that moved us forward in the best way. What might that resemble?
Many people think natural gas is our best fuel of the future. Imagine as many vehicles as possible, and as many power plants as possible shifting to natural gas. In concert, shift to electric transport where possible. Imagine fast electric trains. Imagine scaling up natural gas production and distribution enough to make this practical (Not even close now…). One might think that this is also the most direct route to reduction of greenhouse gas production, since natural gas produces 42% less CO2 than coal and 35% less than oil for the same energy output. Unfortunately, natural gas is mostly methane. Depending on whose statistic you cite, methane is 10 to 25 times as potent a greenhouse gas as CO2. All the extraction and distribution systems leak, more than 3% worldwide. But I doubt that will affect willingness to use natural gas much.
Now imagine generating as much electricity as possible with sun, wind, and water. Hope for research and industrial miracles that make photo-voltaic electricity cost-effective (It’s not now…). Electrify everything we can.
Now imagine more research and industrial miracles to make producing hydrogen with that electricity cheaply by cracking water (It’s not now…).
Imagine fuel cell technology getting affordable and industrial scale. We may actually be close there.
Now imagine using the hydrogen in the natural gas distribution and storage systems. We would burn it to spin engines or catalyse it (fuel cells) to make electricity. This is the “hydrogen economy”. At the moment it’s very much an exercise in imagination, a vision of the future.
Anyone can be a visionary. Smart people have to invent the technologies, make them feasible, and turn them into industries, not visions.