Wednesday, November 10, 2004

 

And the odds of anything remotely resembling this happening (in the US, at least) are, oh, I'd say, approximately, less than zero

One of the (many) important issues mostly ignored during the US presidential campaign.
Energy: Meeting soaring demand

By Alex Kirby, BBC News website environment correspondent

The first problem with energy is that we are running short of traditional sources of supply. The International Energy Agency says the world will need almost 60% more energy in 2030 than in 2002, and fossil fuels will still meet most of its needs.

We depend on oil for 90% of our transport, and for food, pharmaceuticals, chemicals and the entire bedrock of modern life. But oil industry experts estimate that current reserves will only last for about 40 years.

Pessimists predict production will start declining within 15 years, while optimists say we won't have to worry for a century - though rising prices are likely to push us towards alternative energy sources anyway.

Gas, often a suitable replacement for oil, won't last indefinitely either.

There's plenty of coal, but it's still usually hard to use without causing high pollution.

But if everyone in developing countries used the same amount of energy as the average consumer in high income countries does, the developing world's energy use would increase more than eightfold between 2000 and 2050.

The signs are already there. In the first half of 2003 China's car sales rose by 82% compared with the same period in 2002. Its demand for oil is expected to double in 20 years.

In India sales of fuel-guzzling sports utility vehicles account for 10% of all vehicle purchases, and could soon overtake car sales. And the developed world is not standing still.

In the last decade, US oil use has increased by almost 2.7 million barrels a day - more oil than India and Pakistan use daily altogether.

But even if we could somehow indefinitely conjure up enough energy for everyone who wants it, without risking conflict and mayhem in bringing it back home, there would still be an enormous problem - how to use the energy without causing unacceptably high levels of damage to the natural world.

The most obvious threat is the prospect that burning fossil fuels is intensifying natural climate change and heating the Earth to dangerous levels. But forget the greenhouse effect if you want. There are still real costs that go with the quest for and use of energy: air and water pollution, impaired health, acid rain, deforestation, the destruction of traditional ways of life.

It doesn't have to be like this. Our energy use is unsustainable, but we already know what a benign alternative would look like. All we have to do is decide that we will get there, and how. It will make vastly more use of renewable energy, from inexhaustible natural sources like the Sun and the seas.

However, we can also get energy to do several jobs at once, as combined heat and power plants do. And we can use less of it by becoming energy-efficient. The British government estimates that 56% of energy used in UK homes could be cut using currently available technologies - yet the original Model T Ford did more miles to the gallon than the average Ford vehicle produced today in the US [emphasis mine]. We can install power stations on our roofs by covering our houses with solar tiles, or buying miniature wind turbines the size of a satellite dish.

Practically, the energy crisis is soluble. But reaching the broad sunlit uplands will mean a drastic mental gear change for policy-makers and consumers alike.
Creating any kind of sustainable Earth will require genuine sacrifice, primarily from Americans, since we are the country that uses the most energy per capita and therefore could - if we would - cut back the most. But there is less than no political will to undertake the kind of serious discussion, let alone make actual changes, that will be required for us to figure out what we really need to do and then go do it. As long as our carmakers earn most of their profit from inefficient SUVs, they will push them on consumers as much as they possibly can.

The Bush Administration, which is basically owned by the extraction industries, either truly believes, or wants us to believe it believes, that we can drill our way to energy security. Dick Cheney once said, "Conservation may be a sign of personal virtue, but it is not a sufficient basis for a sound, comprehensive energy policy." This from an administration that runs on morality - as it defines the term.

But what is moral about raping the planet? What is moral about using in less than 2 centuries vital resources that took millions of years to be deposited? (I guess that's the benefit of being the kind of fundamentalist Christian who really thinks the Earth is only about 6000 years old. Or, as James Watt once said, the second coming of Christ is around the corner, so we might as well use up all the oil while we still can.)

Unless morality is strictly limited to banning abortion and gay marriage (and who knows? For all I know, that may be all that morality amounts to these days), then there is a sickening immorality to the way this administration bases its entire energy policy on drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Selfishness is not "moral". Stealing from the future is not "moral" (although it is bedrock policy for this administration: witness its huge budget deficits). Right-wingers lecture us all the time about how evil abortion is and how gay marriage destroys "the family" (as if there has ever been only one kind of family in all of human history; but that's an argument for another post). How come they - and only they - can decide what is moral and what isn't? Why can't I say that the US squandering Earth's precious natural resources for short-term self-gratification isn't moral? Why can't I say that enriching the oil companies and the car manufacturers at the expense of a more just, more sustainable future for the entire world isn't moral? Why can't I say that most people don't really need an SUV?

Why is this kind of "morality" automatically defined as "left-wing" and therefore stupid, while shrieking about abortion and gay marriage is automatically defined as "moral" and therefore acceptable for public discourse?

Yes, some people want to drive their SUV. But other people want to get an abortion, or marry their gay or lesbian lover. (I realize these are not mutually exclusive categories.) Why must we abominate the latter but it's hands 0ff the former. Both are personal choices - and both have consequences beyond the personal needs of those who make these choices (especially driving an SUV or having an abortion; I don't myself see what possible consequence there could be if two people who happen to be of the same sex want to join together in legally recognized union).

If the right-wing can choose their "morals" to shriek about, why can't I choose mine? An abortion kills a fetus. SUVs, left completely unregulated, could contribute to killing the planet.

Okay, that's an overstatement. As the supply of oil diminishes, the price will inevitably rise - and stay risen. Eventually, more and more people will have no choice but to seek out more fuel-efficient cars. We saw this in the 1970s and early 1980s, when Japan cleaned Detroit's clock by making the smaller vehicles American consumers suddenly wanted. I imagine somewhere in China an ambitious entrepreneur is working on a small, fuel-efficient car for the internal market that will, 10 years from now, swamp the American market when our car-buyers all of a sudden get tired of paying $3.50 a gallon for a behemoth that can't make it out of their driveway without needing a fill-up.

And that won't solve the planet's long-term energy problem. Demand rises, supply stays static or even diminishes. America has it good; China and India want it good. Maybe their bright young engineers and scientists will figure it out. God knows we won't - our politicians don't have the guts, the SUV-buying public doesn't want to sacrifice and won't listen to anyone telling them they should for the good of the country and the world, and the press has no interest in really covering this story. It's far too easy to point the camera at people protesting abortion or protesting anti-abortion.

Meanwhile, all the important stories languish on the BBC.

Comments:
Hi There! Really cool site . Ok so I'm always searching for this kind of stuff.
I have this fascination thing. Keep up the good work!
All Blessings,Portable Solar Power
 
Hello! Blog surfing(as usual) and I found you guys. Nice feeling here. I'll come back . Keep up more stuff about Portable Solar Power, please.
All the best, Portable Solar Power
 
Post a Comment

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Comments: "
Hi There! Really cool site . Ok so I'm always searching for this kind of stuff.
I have this fascination thing. Keep up the good work!
All Blessings,Portable Solar Power
 
" "
Hello! Blog surfing(as usual) and I found you guys. Nice feeling here. I'll come back . Keep up more stuff about Portable Solar Power, please.
All the best, Portable Solar Power
 
" Post a Comment

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