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Energy systems based on fossil fuels and uranium have brought about modernity and its specific agro-industrial metabolism. Although this achievement creates a deep lock-in effect, collateral damages such as climate change and large-scale contamination cast doubts on the sustainability of the current mode of global socioeconomic operation. This article (pp. E549-E558) analyzes why the incumbent energy systems are so rigid and still outcompete their more sustainable rivals. We elucidate the roledoi:10.1073/pnas.ss11007 fatcat:zmeqvmxsdjcazn3lzl7p5wtxsy