Let’s face it, no matter what your political or socio-economic views are, you can not escape the fundamental truth that we are approaching (or could already be in) an energy crisis which leads to a crisis of conscience.
I know what you’re asking yourself right now: “what the hell is he talking about a crisis of conscience?” Well, let me expound on that for a minute. Currently, in the US a staggering portion of our electricity, about 45%, is produced from coal burning power plants, 23% from natural gas, 20% from nuclear and about 12% from other sources including hydroelectric and renewable sources. So, nearly 70% of our current electrical supply comes from power plants that have to burn some fuel source that is non-renewable. The other 30% comes from sources that are much cleaner and nearly infinitely renewable.
Now, as our populations continue to increase as people live longer more active lifestyles and more children are born healthy and free of disease, our consumption will only go up, which means we are being faced with our crisis of conscience: how do we not only maintain our current electrical demands, but increase production without depleting our finite resources and destroying the planet in the process?
Let me just tell you now, the answer is not simple. It’s not easy and it certainly won’t be cheap, at least not at the beginning. But the reality is coal and natural gas are finite – THEY WILL RUN OUT, and much sooner than you think. So why do we still rely so heavily on them? That is actually a much easier answer. It’s because there is this “rift” between the environmentalists and the “powers that be”. You see, environmentalists want nothing but clean and cheap energy for everyone. This is an admirable goal to be sure, and it’s one I share. BUT (you knew that was coming right?) they want it NOW NOW NOW. Or even YESTERDAY would be nice. Not some day off in the future or even tomorrow, but TODAY. Then there are the “powers that be” in Washington and on Wall Street that have been getting fat and happy for GENERATIONS on fossil fuels like coal and natural gas (lets not even start on the oil tycoons and OPEC, ok). Their goal is to prolong this energy crisis as long as possible so that they can keep jacking up prices and lining their pockets with the proceeds. Now, before you go all “big business is evil” on me, realize that those politicians you elected (yes even the pinko-leftist democrats) are lining their pockets with the same money and even enacting legislation to ENSURE that this crisis continues legislatively (can we say CAP & Trade = excuse to jack up prices).
NOW, where am I going with this? Obviously you can see that these two sides of the aisle are in a bit of a stale mate. What’s the happy median? Well, it’s a slow median…really more of a turning lane during rush hour, but still, you get the picture. What we need to focus on in the short term (the next 20-30 years) is reliable, sustainable technology. I don’t mean “green” sustainable, I mean technology that works efficiently and can be sustained. And that is, for starters, nuclear power. Coupled with an increase in hydroelectric, wind and geo-thermal. These are all technologies that WORK and are working RIGHT NOW.
And now you’re thinking “but they just had this huge disaster in Japan with nuclear power and people are scared” blah blah blah. Anyone who does even a cursory search through google or bing will see that this “nuclear crisis” hasn’t happened yet and isn’t likely to because the safeguards that are in place in these 2nd generation plants WORKED. Not to mention those 2nd generation plants were built back before you and I were even born. If technology doubles every 18 months, how much more efficient do you think today’s nuclear power generation is compared to 50 years ago?….yeah, I thought you’d see it my way. :-\
Where does this put us moving forward? I’m glad you asked. This is where our crisis of conscience really hits the road. If we are determined to leave a better, cleaner and more prosperous planet for our children then we need to take determined steps today.
Step 1 is something that every American should do in their own home, and that is to audit yourself. Take a critical look at how and where you use energy. Find ways to decrease your own personal energy demand and live a more sustainable and ecologically responsible lifestyle.
Step 2 is not so easy. This is where we push government into our lane of traffic and bump them down the road a little bit to get em going. We do that by advocating, first locally, for a decrease in fossil fuel powered generation and an increase in some combination of nuclear, hydroelectric, wind…whatever makes most sense based on your location in the country. Here in Florida, nuclear and wind make sense. It’s all flat land with no major rivers to tap for hydro. And the way this gets sold is by everyone working together to reduce their own individual load, thereby making more sustainable, cleaner technologies more palatable as the risk of huge electrical demand will go down.
Step 3 is the final solution in my mind. This is a generational change and will take time. But once we’ve worked it into our social fabric to be more ecologically conscious at even the most basic level like recycling/composting our waste, taking mass transit/bus and living in more dense urban environments then sustainability or “green” will come by default. It will be part of daily life and something that doesn’t need to be thought about. In my future, landfills will be something you only see in photos at the Smithsonian, our urban centers will be a towering megalopolis of people all living, working, playing and growing within an easy walking distance of a few miles (think UP not OUT).
All of these things can be done. But before any change can be made, the fight needs to stop. Collaboration and cooperation are the two key elements that make any endeavor a success.