07 November 2007

Thinking Energy

Chasing ghosts is much easier, and probably more fun and exciting, than tackling real, tangible problems. That’s why, I think, there’s so much attention being paid to the idea of “global warming” or “climate change.” There are carbon offsets being sold, talks of capping, taxing and trading carbon emissions, and “green” events of various flavors – from concerts (not so green) to week-long news themes.

But somehow I just don’t think that these movements will amount to much when it comes to meaningful change. Sure, they make noise. They also make a whole lot of money. And most of all, they don’t change behavior. Just tonight, I watched a blurb on a news channel (FoxNews, I think) about how Gov. Schwarzenegger and Rep. Pelosi paying hundreds of dollars per private jet trip to “offset” their carbon output. A little money will wash away this spot, to paraphrase Shakespeare. But note, there’s not really a change of behavior, only money changing hands.

So it makes me wonder just what would cause change. Perhaps there are events going on right now that will nudge the country toward changing energy consumption and charge the smart and entrepreneurial to come up with new, varied and realistic solutions.

It appears that market forces are in place, or if not there, nearing that point. Oil will reach $100 a barrel soon, it appears. Gas is steadily climbing in the US. I can only imagine what it’s like in Australia at this point. It appears that the world will demand more and more oil – along with other sources of energy. But at some point, the cost will begin to outweigh the benefits of using the energy.

And then there’s Pakistan and Iran. Not that geopolitics has ever pushed oil and gas prices into the stratosphere (and I don’t think they’re there yet).

It’s not that I want all of these things to create chaos in the world. Living in interesting times is not something I care to do. But if the times do get even more “interesting” (and now that I’ve used that term, I’m not sure I like it all that much), there should be some clear vision about where we’re going. That vision shouldn’t center on how much the ice caps will (or won’t) melt in a given location or how much carbon we’re allowed to exhale from our activities. The vision has to be about how to preserve our way of life in a way that negates energy dependence as much as possible.

No comments: