The writing on the petrochemical wall

This article in the esteemed Guardian suggests that the falling costs of renewable energy have tipped the balance of global energy production away from fossil fuels. If true, the end of fossil fuels as our energy source is only a matter of time.

This has significant implications for the future of our planet as a habitable ecosystem, but it has another less obvious benefit. It could make the difference in whether our civilization is able to survive a minor calamity that might otherwise lead to a total loss of industrial-age technology.

The problem is that humans have already extracted all the easy-to-reach fossil fuels. Back when we were entering the Industrial Revolution, coal was practically lying around everywhere. It could easily be extracted with some pickaxes and a cavalier attitude about the value of human life. Nowadays, virtually all that low-hanging fruit is gone. There's no such thing as easy energy. Energy extraction requires advanced technology. Any significant interruption in the juggernaut of civilization could land us in a spot where we're literally incapable of re-starting the machine of energy production.

It's not difficult to imagine doomsday scenarios. A solar flare destroys all integrated circuits. A global weather phenomenon disrupts commerce. A meteor strike brings on a decade of winter. Pandemic flu depopulates vast areas. A mentally-ill President launches a nuclear strike and precipitates a war. 

All these are survivable events: humanity would endure, in significant numbers, despite horrifying losses in the first few years as food networks were disrupted. But technological civilization would never return to this planet. There wouldn't be the resources to extract what we need to refuel and restart the engines. 

Unless the engines are powered by wind and water and sun. In that scenario, human beings preserve their civilization by maintaining the devices from which their world's free energy was channeled to them. There would be a crucial period in which maintaining these relics would be absolutely essential; we would lack the resources to create replacements. But in a reasonable period of time, they could be employed to provide light, communications, and rapid travel to the survivors. 

Solar might not just save the world; it could save our collective asses.