View from the Top “Too Much Carbon”

July 9, 2010 • Daily Email Recap

Thanks to George Plumb for this OpEd by the founder of NRG Systems of Vermont, where I gave a talk on May 20. His opening paragraph recognizes population growth as the driver of our sustainability problems. You can reach Green Energy Times at 802-439-6675. David Blittersdorf’s OpEd is in the current (May 4, 2010) issue (#4) of Green Energy Times, which you can download at http://www.greenenergytimes.org/back-issues-download/green-energy-times-5-4-10-9-3mb/

David Blittersdorf’s View from the Top “Too Much Carbon”

As individuals & as members of a modern industrial society, we must face up to a few simple facts. Energy shortage is driven by population growth, & the demand for fossil & nuclear fuels will shortly exceed the finite supply of those resources. If we don’t acknowledge this, & act on that knowledge, our modern civilization as we know it will fail & collapse. Civilizations collapse when they exceed the carrying capacity of their environments. Jared Diamond’s excellent book Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed goes into some detail showing how & when past cultures have fallen into decline. We are now living in the biggest experiment humans have ever conducted. Collapse is a 100% certainty unless we get beyond denial of our energy problems.

About 150 years ago, humanity won the biggest lottery our species had ever imagined: We tapped into fossil fuels, & our energy worries seemed to be over. First we mined coal, then oil, then natural gas, & the energy provided by these fuels enabled us to build the modern world as we know it. Now, almost 90% of the energy used worldwide comes from fossil fuels. However, we now know that there is a fixed amount of fossil fuels on our little Earth. Coal is the most abundant, but has the highest carbon pollution & is the most destructive to our life support system. Peak oil production worldwide just happened a few years ago. Oil is the #1 fossil fuel (40% of world energy) & it is now in depletion, meaning that from here on out, there will be less & less available each year.

Just like lottery winners who end up bankrupt, we are using fossil fuels like a lottery winner spends cash: “Easy come, easy go.” By 2050, most of the easily mined fossil fuel resources will be used up. In the question of energy consumption, we must wean ourselves from a diet of too much carbon – & transition to living on our weekly paychecks instead of the lottery winnings. This is a much smaller amount than we are used to. We need to reduce energy consumption 80% by 2050. Massive conservation, efficiency & a huge shift to renewable energy are required to help us do this. (Coincidentally, CO2 needs to be reduced by 80% by the same deadline to reduce global warming, & fossil fuels produce all that carbon, so reducing energy consumption is also key for the environment.) Fossil fuel use must & will be reduced to 20% of present usage. Both large & small scale renewable energy resources like wind & solar are key ingredients in this equation. If we embrace this change, we will survive & be better off in a less energy intensive & more renewable-powered world. This is a requirement to survive – not an option.

David Blittersdorf is the President/CEO of AllEarth Renewables in Williston, VT – a company that specializes in the design, manufacture & installation of grid-connected wind & solar renewable energy systems. He is also the founder of NRG Systems in Hinesburg, Vermont.


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