Trying to take part in the national debate on future energy technologies is like wandering around the house in the dark – you frequently graze your knees and stub your toes on big things deliberately placed there to get in your way.
Some very well-financed people have been promoting dead duck technological options as if they hold some merit. Plucking a few examples out the air – a new fleet of nuclear power plants (with the risk of leaks and spiralling costs) and a network of carbon capture burial sites (with the risk of leaks and spiralling costs).
You would have thought that now would be a good idea to hatch a plan – an overall Energy policy, a strategy for the implementation of workable and reasonably-priced options that complement each other.
This would show up the uselessness of the engineering dodos such as new nuclear power and carbon capture and storage. To combat non-solutions, all we need is plans.
Well, there’s some movement from the UK Government, as one example, but it’s patchy. As for the social movements – well, that’s another story.
Quite a number of the activist communities still continue to adhere to the model of negative protest against big, old, dirty technology. Every time a piece of news arrives about a technology they don’t like, the “campaign” organisations react critically, defensively.
Every public event and “direct action” centres around things that people don’t want and don’t like. It’s never very happy. Civil society never gets around to forming a concrete positive proposal for how energy should be managed going forward.
To shine a light on this a little – Bill McKibben is just about to waste a whole bunch of his and other peoples’ time and energy on a schedule of “civil disobedience”, but this is likely to have little lasting impact on those who actually make decisions about the production and exploitation of energy resources :-
“Disobedience : Direct action on global warming : Dec 27, 2010 by Bill McKibben : If there was ever an issue about which civil disobedience should not be required, global warming is it…Global warming shouldn’t be a moral question, but because of our inaction it’s become the greatest moral challenge of our time.”
Couched in moral imperatives, Bill McKibben appears to be suggesting that the very best thing we should all do is to go and idle about outside a coal power station, or the like, and risk getting watercannoned, beat up or arrested. As if that helps – which it doesn’t.
There are some engineering people working to propose pragmatic, low cost strategies for implementing significant improvements in energy provision, but their work is not always read properly by the non-governmental organisations and independent groups.
If you’re not an engineer, your eyes tend to glaze over when you see a technical report. You don’t take it in, so you don’t understand the plan. Many social activists regard engineering reports as being simply “vision” and don’t understand the real proposals they contain.
Because activists regularly don’t understand positive proposals for changes in the energy systems, they can’t “get behind” them. So, without a plan, a plan for positive action, the default activist position is negatively opposing bad, old fossil fuel energies.
Struggling against fossil fuel energies and nuclear power is like trying to scramble up a scree slope while its experiencing an avalanche. By being continuously negative, activists don’t get anywhere fast.
Don’t get me wrong – it has been very necessary to follow through on resisting the negative aspects of energy for several years. People have had iconic photo opportunities camped outside massive, sinful coal power plants, or kneeling on an aeroplane runway. The “no” has been witnessed. And I have been a part of that witness.
But now we need to get on to the “yes”.
What is it that we are assenting to ? What changes do we think are practical, pragmatic to implement to drastically reduce carbon dioxide emissions in the United Kingdom.
Here’s just a couple of numbers :-
Biogas (from rotting sewage/food/plants) could provide somewhere between 20% and 50% of our current grid gas needs.
Insulating and draught-proofing buildings could cut Natural Gas use by something of the order of 30%.
Wind power could provide 45% of our electricity.
These are very Big Numbers.
Who says there is no “silver bullet” to fix the energy system ?
Several groups have a good idea on how these and other technologies can be implemented, and they have not been offhandedly ignored or dismissed by those that have the job of administering the country.
So what is it that we want ? And when are we going to have a wind turbine hugging event ? Or a Woodstock at a hydropower lake ?
Love your green energy. Go bless it with incense, chanting and soul.