This chapter discusses the role of energy production in the global capitalist economy and its relationship to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with particular focus on SDG 8 – ‘Promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all’ – and SDG 12 – ‘Ensure sustainable consumption and production patterns’. It achieves this by first introducing the Club of Rome report the Limits to Growth which utilised a system dynamics computer model to simulate the interactions of five global economic subsystems (population, food production, industrial production, pollution and consumption of nonrenewable natural resources) (Meadows, Meadows, Randers, & Behrens III, 1972), the results of which posed serious challenges for global sustainability, to better understand and contextualise unconventional (also referred to as ‘extreme’) and ‘renewable’ energy production as examples of the paradoxical nature of sustainable development in the global capitalist economy. Demonstrating that unconventional energy production methods are much less efficient, more carbon intensive, more environmentally destructive and just as unsustainable, and that renewable energy relies on the extraction of nonrenewable natural resources such as lithium that result in similar environmental and social issues, this chapter will interrogate this and ask the question – is the capitalist system in its current form capable of making ‘sustainable development something more than the oxymoron it appears?’.

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