A sustainable energy future?

I read a really fascinating article today, about an attempt to genuinely create cheap renewable energy. It is well worth a read, as the potential impact on the world, the economy, the environment of pulling this off is massive. (Strategy & Business, Stan Ovshinsky’s Solar Revolution – you may need to register, for free, to read it.)

Buckminster Fuller, as part of his World Game (the idea of which was to “make the world work for 100% of humanity in the shortest possible time through spontaneous cooperation without ecological damage or disadvantage to anyone”) proposed an idea, back in the 60’s, I believe, which was that the biggest single impact to humanity would be a global power grid of cheap renewable electricity for all.

Why would that be so? Well, with electricity for all we solve all manner of world problems:

  • Clean water for all – desalinated or purified water is easily available if there’s enough cheap renewable energy.
  • Food for all – clean water, pumped to agricultural sites plus heat lamps where required for growing food.
  • Health issues – from consistent stable hospital power supplies around the world, to homes heated well enough and cheaply enough that the elderly in this country don’t die in winter as they can’t pay their heating bills. Also through electric vehicles, less asthma and other respiratory illnesses.
  • Environment – electric cars could become genuinely sustainable options, rather than at present displacing pollution from cars to powerstations. Electric heating could replace gas, oil and coal throughout the world, and businesses would be able to switch to more electrically powered machinery.
  • Literacy and education – with electric lighting when required reading becomes a more available option. With electricity more educational opportunities are available, through computers, the internet, television etc.

The downsides that do exist, are ones that face the oil industry and (mainly the ruling classes of) some oil producing nations – they will lose money. However the upsides are so substantial that I do hope that this may be possible.

Current energy projections, based upon levels of energy consumption in the ‘developed’ world and increases in the more populous ‘developing’ world mean that as things currently stand we are very probably facing both an environmental crisis and massive energy shortages. It’s about time we took this seriously and started investing in this problem, just as Buckminster Fuller was advising back in the 1960’s.

4:03 pm | by Pete_Hamill

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