Monday Jun 24, 2013
- Tuesday Jun 25, 2013 -
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania - USA
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It's not been a good year for nuclear power. A federal court recently found that local storage solutions for nuclear waste, kept currently at each power plant where the waste is produced, have not been shown to be safe.
Saudi Arabia is once again the biggest producer of oil in the world, surpassing Russia to regain its title. Saudi Arabia happens to be one of the most repressive and undemocratic regimes in the world. The Economist magazine ranked Saudi Arabia 161st out of 167 countries in their most recent Democracy Index.
It is common knowledge that "there is no quick fix" for high gas prices. It's going to be a long-term effort to reduce our reliance on oil and we're probably in for higher prices no matter what we do in the short-term or long-term because we're facing a number of macro trends, such as systemic tightness in global supplies (peak oil), ongoing international tensions with Iran, etc., and perhaps also some amount of speculation in oil prices.
"Energy literacy" and "peak oil literacy" should be requirements for pundits -- and for citizens more generally. I've followed these issues for many years now and it still amazes me how poor the knowledge of energy issues is among even the chattering classes and punditry.
Italy recently became the fourth nation to pledge to phase out nuclear power since Japan's Fukushima disaster. Italy accomplished this feat by a popular referendum, soon after Germany did the same in its legislature (Bundestag). Switzerland has also agreed to a phase out and Japan itself has agreed to phase out much of its nuclear capacity in favor of renewables and natural gas.
Reports of the death of the solar industry are greatly exaggerated. Yes, there have been some high profile bankruptcies of US solar companies -- Solyndra, Evergreen, Spectrawatt -- in 2011. But the solar industry as a whole is on a boom that is only going to increase in coming years.
My provocative title represents the increasing awareness that we don't need to believe in climate change to do the right thing when it comes to energy. Of course, climate change is a real threat to us and our environment. But there are many highly valid reasons to become more energy efficient, conserve energy through behavior change, and transition to renewables -- entirely independent of climate change concerns.
The United States continues to slumber while a catastrophe lies in wait. Increasing numbers of analysts and policymakers are warning of another super price spike for oil and the likelihood of "peak oil" more generally.
The neoconservative Charles Krauthammer wrote in 2004 that the predominance of US power in the world after the fall of the Soviet Union was a "staggering development in history, not seen since the fall of Rome." Krauthammer and his fellow neocons famously concluded from this disparity in power that the US needed to adopt an aggressive foreign policy agenda to enhance and continue its dominance in the "New American Century."
California is on the precipice of passing into law a game-changing Feed-In Tariff (FIT) policy that will unleash the tremendous potential of renewable energy and provide a massive economic boost in California.
With President-elect Obama closing the deal in a resounding manner, let's review his proposed energy policies. Obama has long called for action to mitigate climate change and to decrease foreign energy dependence. Obama has not to my knowledge ever discussed peak oil, but the general rubric of "energy independence" captures some of the key features of the peak oil discussion.
Large-scale solar is about to rise on the energy scene with unprecedented impact. The revolution in small-scale solar is well-known, with installation of small solar systems in California, New Jersey, Germany, Japan and Spain setting records each year. But the time for 5 megawatt and over systems seems to have arrived.
Some say governments move too slowly and that bureaucracies can impede progress. But in October the Santa Barbara City Council and staff bucked the stereotype and moved to approve a potentially momentous change in the building code. With broad support from developers, architects, contractors, and the environmental community, the City increased the energy efficiency standards for all new construction.
Despite the Democratic takeover of Congress last year and the President's acknowledgment that "we are addicted to oil," the federal government can't get its act together when it comes to energy and climate change. Democrats have now controlled Congress for almost a year, with climate change as a top priority for action. Yet nothing has happened.
A new television documentary is igniting a mini-backlash against the global warming consensus: that human-related greenhouse gas emissions are responsible for most of the warming over the last 50 years.
Moving away from fossil fuels should be the top environmental and economic priority for the Central Coast region of California and our nation. Simply put, we can no longer afford to rely on fossil fuels - oil, coal, and gas - for most of our energy. The key problems stemming from our reliance on fossil fuels are climate change, oil and gas depletion ("peak oil"), national security issues arising from having to import foreign oil, and air pollution.
A healthy popular debate over climate change has emerged since An Inconvenient Truth, a documentary featuring Al Gore and his traveling slideshow, hit theaters last month. Gore, in his cinematic slideshow, makes a compelling case for the notion that humans are monkeying with the atmosphere in a very dangerous way.
Sweden surprised the world last year by announcing its intention to get off oil by 2020. We'd like to think the Swedes got the idea here in Santa Barbara, California - the Community Environmental Council, based in Santa Barbara, has been calling for "fossil free by 2033" for a couple of years, and the City of Santa Barbara is performing a greenhouse gas inventory and is on its way to adopting similarly ambitious goals for its energy use.
First things first: California's energy efficiency potential. According to the state's own Energy Action Plan, "Energy efficiency is the least cost, most reliable, and most environmentally-sensitive resource, and minimizes our contribution to climate change. California's energy efficiency programs are the most successful in the nation and we want to continue to build upon those successes."
The future of California's energy supply is at an important crossroads. The first path is the path we're on now, which leads to increased dependence on fossil fuels to provide energy for our growing population and industry. If we continue down this path, we can predict some of the environmental and economic outcomes. The second path leads to a very different future.
With Earth Day upon us, it's important to refresh our memories about the dangers of nuclear power. The promoters of nuclear power, corporate and political, are attempting to make nuclear power the wave of the future, in the U.S. and much of the world. In doing so, most of the negative aspects of nuclear power -- those common-sense reasons that prevented nuclear power plants from being built in the U.S. for some 30 years -- are being swept under the rug.
January 28, 1969. It was the largest oil spill our nation had seen up until that point - a catastrophic blowout from an oil platform off of Santa Barbara in southern California that spread an 800 square-mile oil slick along a thirty mile coastline.
Renewable energy has come of age. A recent report on the state of the
renewable energy industry concludes: "Dramatic improvements in performance, as well as government incentives, have resulted in reduced costs that are quickly making renewable energy technologies competitive with traditional forms of electricity generation...." .