Saturday, May 14, 2011

Optimizing Energy Use

Our global energy system is on cruise control. That's not the change we need.

Greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide are throwing the climate and therefore our easy planetary ride into jeopardy. The science on this is beyond contestation. You may have heard about it.
We would do well to address this sooner rather than later, as the costs of prevention are far below the costs of trying to fix it later.
The culprit? Fossil fuels: Coal, Oil, Natural Gas. Despite the work that they are doing to mitigate their environmental impacts, the product is the problem.
Fossil fuels are energy dense and easy to work with, and they come with a contribution to climate change. You do not want the climate change. 
Anything that we haul out from the earth's crust, burn, and pump into the sky contributes to the problem.
It's clear that a shift to renewable sources of energy will help keep greenhouse gases out of the atmosphere. The easiest way to get excess carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere is not to put it there in the first place. 
Lots of what we do uses energy. Could we accomplish our goals in other ways? Could we arrange our world so we don't need to use the energy to achieve our objectives at all? This is subtle, but it's about doing what we want, not about using energy to do it.
How can we use as little as possible? Energy efficiency is a good second question, and it's an easy thing to think about: for example a car that goes farther on a litre of gas, a refrigerator that uses electricity than your old one, or a house that doesn't leak heat in the winter.
Minimize your energy use, then think about where it comes from, and what side effects it contributes to.
This is planet earth. There are no exits. We're going to be here for a long time. Let's get comfortable with reducing our energy use, and let's get comfortable with renewables.
That's where the bridge to the future is going, at least the one that doesn't lead to disaster. Let's start now, because you do not want to try to fix this later.
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