The world is at war over energy. Fossil fuels are running out. Gas prices are going up. And no one seems to agree on how we should proceed. Let's start with the facts: climate change is happening whether we want to deal with it or not. As greenhouse gas levels rise, the global climate is altering, and without dramatic changes to the ways we source and use energy, the planet will eventually change to the point that it will no longer be able to house homo sapiens. In my estimation, that makes climate change the most important issue facing mankind.
The majority of greenhouse gas emissions come from electricity companies, followed by transportation, industry, agriculture, commercial, residential, and other smaller sources. Our atmospheric carbon levels are already above what is considered safe, and the levels are rising. Energy is of paramount importance.
Fossil fuels are running out, and prices will continue to increase. The "drill, baby, drill" mantra only band-aids the long term problem, while exacerbating climate change. In other words, it makes no sense. Renewable energy projects do make sense. We need to decrease our dependence on fossil fuels in favor of solar, wind, and geothermal projects. If it is so easy, why hasn't it happened?
It has something to do with what thousands of Occupy protestors have been exclaiming in the streets for months now. Dirty money and corporate control of government are pervasive. How can this be fought? Bill McKibben, founder of 350.org, has some ideas. First, we need to fight fossil fuel companies by making their lives difficult and preventing further expansion of this antiquated fossil fuel energy; that means Keystone XL, drilling in ANWR, and hydraulic fracking, to name but a few. Second, we need to sound the alarm on the dirty money with which fossil fuel companies are lining our politicians' pockets. Finally, we need to end all government subsidies of fossil fuel companies in order to level the playing field for renewable projects. Companies earning billions in profits annually don't need any additional help from taxpayers.
On the other side of things, it is important to destroy the NIMBYist ideology as it relates to renewable projects. We all use energy, so we should all have to accept looking at its source. Practicality is imperative. We do not have the renewable infrastructure in place now to end our reliance on fossil fuels. We must determine the safest ways to source and use the fossil fuels that we absolutely require, while simultaneously pursuing an aggressive shift from fossil fuels to renewable energy projects. And as the shift accelerates, we need to improve efficiency and conserve energy, and not use more of it simply because it is renewable.
The world is changing. Our global consciousness of this issue is growing. "Green" marketing is everywhere, giving consumers better options, which is a great thing. Comprehensive change will take baby steps, and the first is to identify what those steps actually are. We at SHFT encourage you to vote with your dollar, join a grassroots movement to push the climate debate into the limelight, and make small changes wherever possible to create a more eco-conscious life. There is hope, and the time is now.
- Mitchell Flexo
Photo: The Cerro Prieto Geothermal Power Station in Baja, Mexico, one of the world’s largest geothermal projects.