Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Renewable Energy. Do we have the will?

While several institutions such as the Rockefeller Foundation is divesting its investment away from fossil fuels assets and reinvesting in clean or renewable energy, the demand on climate change, the effects it has on our eco system and what we eat is carrying a big voice. Too many it is evident that fossil fuels (oil, coal and natural gas) as a primary energy, causes pollution and global warming. If we burn such fuels at an alarming rate together with deforestation (to allow space for planting crops or crazing livestock for example) then through sheer logic we could really be in a critical fix. NB. From a point of view of semantics, 'respect for our environment' rather than 'climate change' is more apt.  A revolution to renewable can only be a good thing by this we mean any power that is generated through, wind, sun and water and lest we forget the EU's ambitious 2020 target. Frankly it is becoming harder and harder to justify for such companies as Shell and Exxon, extracting oil in the Artic.
 
A while back when I lived and worked in Amsterdam, I would drive my car some 1.5 km to my office. I would laugh at the Dutch on their bicycles. What on earth are they thinking? Look at me. Yes me. I have a brand new BMW still hot off the conveyer belt straight from Germany. Leased too! They’ll just never learn will they?
 
Moving on from those aimless days, people’s attitudes and not just my own are really changing. A revolution would imply that coal, oil, and combustion engines will move into the history books as some 20th century adventurous experiment. Oil and our insatiable appetite for it has caused so much harm and despair in the last Century. Even mankind’s worst battle in history, the battle of Stalingrad was down to Hitler’s objective to get hold of the rich Oil fields in the Caucasus.
 
Aeroplanes, Shipping and haulage would need to revert to renewable. Electricity would have to be generated differently to satisfy our household consumer appliances, as well as TV, sound, lighting, machine equipment, trams, and trains and so on. The transition to get there would be formidable and the change and effects would be enormous. The effects are enormous because quite frankly with the amount of energy we use would very likely exceed the supply. And yet do we have the will? Could this mark the end of industrialisation or a consumption driven economy? The simplest way to deal with the challenge is for lifestyles, hearts and mentalities to shift in so as we consume less, live more simply and in a sustainable manner. It would also mean our industries producing sustainable goods.
 
Change in hearts and mentalities is easier said than done as more often than not it takes a bolt of lightning to trigger. Apart from governments lacking a serious strategy due to short term panic thinking and basic economics, this divestment of assets from oil companies to re-invest elsewhere is surely an effective way to carry out this transition as this would influence the bottom line in such companies. Could the banks and financial sector take the bold decision to divest their assets, lending and investments (or reduce their exposure by 20% would make mathematical sense) from oil including fossil fuel dependent companies and redirect them into renewable energy companies?
 
Apart from generating a switch to countless new opportunities, jobs and ingenuity bringing us into an exciting new era, what about our everyday lives? Let’s take a car for example where Elon Musk the CEO of Tesla, appears to be making his mark. It clearly takes energy to produce and process a car. Plastics, steel, and even rubber would be needed. Then all this would need to pass through the supply chain and then assembled, to make the car. When we drive we use energy whilst we stand idle in traffic, accelerate and even break.
 
To produce and assemble an electric car would have to be the same. To make the batteries, compounds such as lithium, copper and nickel are mined from the Earth and processed in a manner that demands energy and can release toxic components. No doubt there have been studies done on such things to compare the energy life cycles between the two. Is the chemical plant willing to revert to renewable energy? Is a steel company willing to revert to renewable energy to extract iron ore? Or could we make a car from something more sustainable?
 
Here in Belgium, electric cars are hardly sold due to the lack of investment the government has made in public recharging facilities. ‘The revolution is on its way but we are far from ready,’ the VW salesman pointed out the other day. Nevertheless, having tested an electric car, a Nissan Leaf, besides the fact that there was a huge reduction in the noise and air pollution in our streets, it was the easiest thing to drive and very enjoyable. Was it made and assembled from using renewable energy? Unlikely. Yet are we on target in reducing greenhouse emissions by 20% from 1990 levels? Not sure.
Having finally learnt a simpler solution north of the border, I have reverted to just riding a bicycle which uses the best energy of all and hey presto it comes with a little dynamo creating its own light and to potentially recharge the mobile phone.
 
In short it is really down to each of us and how much responsibility we are willing to bear.  It is probably virtually impossible to produce goods that are 100% biodegradable or in a natural way. At best it comes down to a respect and love for our environment. This starts from the respect of oneself. Where does that respect of oneself come from? Our family, our upbringing, our education, our values and an awakening of our conscience. This way we begin to appreciate our land, our surroundings, our buildings, how we contribute or benefit, what we make and create, who we serve and the people we meet.  This is needed more than ever in our desperate world that has been passed down to us from so long ago, so as to discover our paths and to hold onto it with gratitude, meaning and with care. If one person gets it, others will break the waves with you, enabling a life of not just a rippling energy but of immeasurable, infinite beauty and fulfillment.   

Where there is a will there is a way

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