Monday, September 8, 2008
TOWARDS SOLVING THE ENERGY CRISIS
About a week or so ago, I put a badge up at the top right of this blog for Avaaz.org, an email list I belong to. Avaaz is an international non-profit action group that monitors global environmental and political issues. One of the best things they do is create handy one-click petitions for people on their email list to send to their respective governments regarding helping our fellow citizens of the world in places like Africa, Tibet, Burma, China. The most recent email I got from them had to do with emergency environmental petition to help stop global warming from wiping out some of the small island nations, particularly in the Pacific. If you haven’t heard the term “eco-refugees” yet, you may soon be hearing it all too often. Anyway, as I’ve been watching the US elections, I strikes me that the debate of drilling for oil off-shore and in environmentally sensitive (aren’t they all?!) areas like the Arctic is really not what we should be talking about. Most of these proposed drilling sites would not produce oil for anywhere from 7-12 years. If we aren’t off of fossil fuels completely in something very close to that same time frame, then it won’t matter who won an election, or who drilled where. It’s my admittedly non-professional opinion that it may very well be too late already for the island peoples – and parts of other low-lying areas in the world as well. What we need to do now is work fast to avoid going past the point of no return that will send our only home on its way towards a total runaway greenhouse effect. That’s what some scientists think may have happened on Venus. It might look bright and beautiful from your backyard at dusk, but up close, Venus ain’t so cool – literally.
I’m also a contributing member to The Orion Project. I encourage you to check it out, and if you feel so inclined, post the link on your own blogs and email it to friends to help spread the word. And donate. There are quite a few energy systems that can produce cheap, even free, non-polluting energy, but there are vested interests that don’t want these technologies made public. A couple of decades ago I heard an environmental scientist say in an interview, “We won’t have solar power until some company figures out how to run a sunbeam through a meter!” That’s the attitude inventors of clean energy sources have been up against. The short video on the Orion website will fill you in on that. In light of the sudden breaking up of a 4,500-year-old Arctic ice shelf that’s just been reported by CNN and other media, the Orion Project is even more urgent.
Recently, we in North America have been seeing ads on TV by T. Boone Pickens, the billionaire oilman who is now advocating alternate energy sources. While he’s being lauded by some for his forward thinking, I must say, I’ve been suspicious right from the start. What’s the catch, I asked him from my living room. You’ve made your oil money, and now that oil is running out, you want to switch to wind and other alternatives? What’s in it for you? Have you suddenly developed a concern for the earth seven generations from now? After his first few wind power commercials, now Pickens is connected to domestic Compressed Natural Gas, or CNG. And now it’s starting to look like wind power is just the mid-stage between getting off foreign oil and onto CNG. In another new commercial, another voice is chiming in. This fellow is Aubrey McClendon, the CEO of a big CNG producer, Chesapeake Energy, and he’s “getting behind” T. Boone’s energy plan. Unlike a sunbeam, I bet you can run CNG through a meter, or the equivalent. Free energy, on the other hand, is free. The problem isn’t that CNG isn’t eco-friendly – it’s better than oil. It’s also cheaper than oil. But it will require significant changes to infrastructure, etc. and a lot of these could end up being prohibitively expensive in an already cash-strapped and in-debt economy, because it takes a lot of expensive fossil fuel energy just to retool, and put the new infrastructure in place. That’s been the reason that a lot of green solutions we haven’t been initiated already – too costly. With free energy, there are no excuses. If you have to change the infrastructure anyway for CNG, why not change it to use the best possible replacement? Why not? Because the Big Bucks guys don’t want to be cut out, that’s why. If you can get all your energy needs met by a small, easily affordable “little black box” in your own home, you won’t need a T. Boone or a McClendon. However, if we go down this road, then we won’t have learned a thing. We will be the generation that could have done something, could have stopped something, and instead we let our beautiful planet slip away. The Seventh Generation (if there even is one) will curse our names. As for the immediate future, I’m not getting behind more drilling or CNG. I’m getting behind the Orion Project.
Photos of Earth and Venus from Wikimedia Commons