Energy Consumption, Economics, and Environmentalism

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To simplify where we are as a civilization and where we’re going with respect to energy consumption, economics, and environmentalism, it’s useful to postulate three broad “plans”:

Plan A: We continue on our current course. We ignore the fact that our population will soon be growing from 7 billion to 10 billion, and that an ever-growing percentage of that population is joining the ranks of consumers. Our leaders know that we’re in the process of driving off a cliff; they may lack basic decency, but they’re long on intelligence, and they exploit voter ignorance of this core truth as long as they possibly can. During this time, they and the extraordinarily powerful forces that elected them desperately look for new ways of extracting fossil fuels, while obfuscating the effects on global climate, ocean acidification, social chaos, war, respiratory disease, etc. The elite remain in power until the planet is in ruins.

Plan B: We aggressively adopt what Jeremy Rifkin and others refer to as “The Third Industrial Revolution,” which contemplates continued economic growth by focusing on renewable energy and the many other components of sustainability. As Rifkin conceives this, there are “five pillars” at play here: shifting to renewable energy, developing buildings as power plants, deploying hydrogen and other storage technologies, using Internet technology, and transitioning the transport fleet to electric, plug-in and fuel cell vehicles. Not to give anything away, but this concept is embraced by several of the people I interviewed in my second book, due out shortly: “Is Renewable Really Doable?”

Plan C: Although we’d probably love to believe in Plan B, we just don’t see it as a pragmatic reality. We regard the phrase “sustainable growth” as an oxymoron, and find a way to cut back on energy consumption and deal with a period of negative growth, because this is our only choice. By the way, this too is addressed in my next book, and it’s the core belief of Bill McKibben and many other great minds.

My job is to pull this apart, to unravel the issues that underlie each of the three major plans. And now may be a good time to thank you, reader, for being here, and offering your insightful comments as we work this through together.

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About Author

Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

4 Comments

  1. Looking at our politicians, eg the Harper gov’t repudiation of Kyoto, the USA Tea party head in the sand climate deniers, the European Union spend until you’re dead gov’ts, Chinese and Indian populate until you drop etc, I am betting option A will be followed until it is too late if it isn’t already. Plan B is idiotic, Growth comes to and end in EVERY system. Plan C requires facing the reality there are TOO MANY people already on this planet for it to sustain so populations need to be reduced! But that is political suicide so guess what, we (meaning this civilisation cycle) are FUBAR!

  2. The economic and environmental changes have become an global issue everybody should share interest in. Siemens for example already offers an entire range of products and solutions for the electromobile future – including sustainable energy, smart grids, charging infrastructures, components for electric cars… Their portfolio promotes the use of energy-efficient fossil power and clean sustainable energy.

  3. @Lilly these changes have been a global issue for the past years, but it doesn’t seem to help accelerate the social acceptance and awareness of the fact, at least as far as I can tell.

    Countries like China are massively corrupt in the carbon trading scheme for example. Changing the mindset at the top government, therefore changing the profitability of these industries can make the real difference.

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