We cross our bridges when we come to them and burn them behind us, with nothing to show for our progress except the smell of smoke – Tom Stoppard
Our Neanderthal preoccupation with burning things has surely had its day. From the first snaking tendril of flame to the present day we have looked no further than to burn, burn, burn for our energy needs.
How different our evolution would have been if the gear had been invented before the spear.
Gas, oil, coal, wood, waste, the human race seems incapable of seriously developing an alternative to burning things, yet the powerful sun shines on, the wind rages and the tide just keeps on going in and out. These sources of energy will not dry up or disappear, and they are constant and free. We do not need to wage wars, invent shady foreign policy and swindle poor nations to get renewable energy. All that is required is to use the technology we already have. No pollution, no climate change, just a few redundant diplomats and tanks.
It is ironic that the countries producing the most oil have the most solar energy potential. It is criminal that inventions which make the internal combustion engine obsolete have been bought up by the largest corporations and left to moulder in the dark for 40 years or more. It is unjustifiable that millions die every year in poverty and violence because of western posturing and insatiable greed for oil when there are realistic alternatives.
Despite advances in efficiency and sustainability, of all the energy harnessed since the industrial revolution, more than half has been consumed in the last two decades. 90% of all energy produced comes from the combustion of fossil fuels.
The US consumes 25% of the world’s energy, using 11.4 kW for each US citizen. Japan and Germany use 6 kW per person and Bangladesh is the lowest user at a mere 0.2 kW per person. 27% of all energy generated is wasted in transmission and the generation process.
Thanks mostly to the sun, the world has a useable renewable energy supply that exceeds 8,000 times total world energy usage, dwarfing all non-renewable supplies. Solar energy resources are huge. Less than 0.02% of available renewables are sufficient to entirely replace fossil fuels and nuclear power as an energy source.
It is widely accepted that the war in Iraq is an oil war, it is the same in Afghanistan, it would be the same in Libya. Whilst the people of Iraq continue to suffer the violence and regressive economic results of western interference, the oil production of that country has never reached the output achieved under Saddam. Unrest in the Middle East has reduced oil output even further with the House of Saud reluctant to make up too much of the shortfall for fear of jeopardizing their future income.
Instead of investing in renewables we look for new oil supplies: tar sands, the deep oceans, Antarctica. Often it costs more in pollution and CO2 emissions to extract from these difficult areas than the actual combustion of the end product. We look to biofuels and destroy precious virgin forest to grow palm oil – only to burn, burn burn.
The time has come to shed our primitive love affair with burning things. It is self-indulgent and wrong to kill for such resources when passive collection of unlimited renewable supplies will provide 8,000 times our energy needs.
What can you do? Object to the building of more power stations, actively support windfarms, use Green energy suppliers such as Ecotricity, make your local councils invest in solar collection on roofs, join sustainable communities such as Transition Towns. It is your world.
Note to NIMBY’s (Not in My Back Yard) – Your view or your morality: every time you stop a windfarm being built, you force thousands to live in the unhealthy, polluted air of incinerators and power plants.