In the weblog Clean Break, written by Canadian reporter Tyler Hamilton (screenshot from his site on the left), I was pointed to an edition of MIT’s Technology Review, with a set of article looking at different aspects of measures against global warming.
Articles are about different solutions in bringing down emissions, ranging from nuclear to Brasil’s biofuel as well as using improved technologies to get more from what we already are using. But in the end there is no escaping the reality that […] we will need an energy economy based on solar, wind and other renewables.
Tyler’s blog by the way is a good place to get information about Canadian initiatives in alternative energy sources, as well as the reality you have to face when implementing those initiatives.
This is the neighbourhood where a colleague of mine lives. The houses had solar panels added during construction. The number of panels, given latitude and climate as well as probable efficiency of the panels, should be enough for about 40% of the energy consumption.
I think adding photo voltaic technology, as well as solar water heaters to building during construction is done way too little. It helps lower the threshold for people to ‘try’ it out.
Recent polling showed that more than half of the Dutch population thought generating part of your energy yourself through solar or wind was a step too far. Three quarters thought they were already mindful enough to not waste energy. I’d say there is a big difference between the effort to try and use less energy for the same tasks (always worth an effort I’d say), and the notion of using energy you generated yourself. The two are neither opposites, nor replacements of each other, but complements working in two different directions altogether.
Adding PV panels to your home later on is still rather expensive, but adding them on top of the general building budget changes perspective as well as lets you finance it through your mortgage. There the total sum is less interesting to most than the actual monthly mortgage rates. Also it makes the financing costs tax deductable.
Noam Chomsky in his recent posting suggests that peak-oil coming sooner rather than later is actually beneficial to the human species, as it will force us to rethink our ways fast, and will lessen the pollution we create from burning carbonhydrates.
I’d say that he would be right if we knew when peak oil came, or would know it if we were there already: then we probably would align our efforts to a sustainable new energy regime better and more effectively.
One other thing he says is interesting:
Talk about “shrinking our economies” is pretty meaningless. Our economies would shrink substantially if we got rid of huge expenditures for the military, for incarceration, and other highly destructive activities. Sustainable economies might lead to highly improved quality of life.
This sounds like what Martin Roell, Johnnie Moore and I were theorizing over lunch October 2003 in Brussels, when we postulated that in a fully developed knowledge economy GDP would actually go down significantly, compared to our current still largely industrialized economies, because its benefits and value would be outside the scope of our measurement and governance systems.
Thanks for the introduction Ton, you really hooked me into it now. But I’m glad you did. Now it is not only the easy way to talk about things, but also to write on them.
I would like to continue on your statement: “Why isnít there a large awareness in the main stream that our oil is running out, and running out fast?”.
Could it be that in the last couple of centuries politicians have drifted away from the technicians? At present the politicians are taught to do politics, not engineering. Now there is a lack of technicians that have a political involvement. And as the tax money is devided by the politicians, the focus will certainly not be research and development. Besides, politicians are more present in the media, so spreading their focus of interest to a wider public.
I think a lot of people know that we are running out of oil, but they rely on the engineers to come up with a solution, because engineers always came up with a solution in the past. I think this attitude is widely spread in the society and the gap is growing wider and wider. It might become dangerous when everybody has this attitude, as it is the easy way to look at problems?
It is my pleasure to announce that this weblog is now a co-authored weblog. My friend Siert Wijnia, who is also interested in energy and the end of oil, and I will be jointly writing for this blog. By this we hope that conversation will flow between us more strongly, and of course you are welcome to join in as well.