A Better Future from Renewable Energy

(#316 ) – Take a moment to visualize that stunningly beautiful picture of the earth taken a decade ago from one of our space rockets.  What a marvelous experience that first encounter was with this picture of our earth.  Many of us still receive inspiration, consolation, confidence and joy from that picture of the blue marble we call home. Tens of millions of earth flags, some carrying the legend, “space ship earth,” have been purchased by those who see the earth globe as their first flag of allegiance.

A quick look at more recent photographs of earth, focusing narrowly on the United States, includes different colors than the marvelous blue and green of just a decade ago. 2011 photos show that 56% of the US suffered from either severe drought or flooding.  A new historical record of 14 weather events costing more than $1b occurred.  Super Storm Sandy, 2012, had an initial cost tag of $8b but is already far higher.  Ocean water that was predicted to overwhelm lower parts of Manhattan in 30-50 years, completely flooded subway systems and knocked out power for tens of thousands in high rise apartments.  What passes for perfectly normal intensities of local storms in the past few weeks has left many Sullivan households and businesses without telephone service for up to 10 days or more.

The case has been made scientifically that human economic choices, especially

Increasing uses of fossil fuels and overwhelming amounts of polluting debris, are opposing the physics and chemistry of our planet.  No one can know how fast, how large, how destructive this collision will bring.  However, it is clear that the life support systems worked out for millions of years are being weakened.  We live in the era of the Sixth Great Period of Extinction.

One question that is asked is, Why don’t the richest corporations in the world invest their fabulous wealth in solar, wind, geo-thermal, air source heat pumps and hydro installations which can pull us back from the cliff facing us?  These systems are or will be at same cost as fossil fuel power and have tremendous additional benefits to human health, happiness ad security.

The answer is, they don’t fold like the tobacco industry did because the richest companies, like ExxonMobil, are fossil fuel companies and they pull in more money than any other companies in history.  Globally, they receive $1.9 trillion in public subsidy. This failure of public policy or success of corporate capture of government the world over really compounds the problem. But the problem is far more profound.

The value of these energy companies is largely based on fossil fuel reserves that won’t be burned if we take global warming – or to put it more directly – if we take responsibility for our future seriously.  The world scientific consensus is that most of these petro reserves must stay in the ground – must not be burned – because they exceed the current global crisis by a factor of five. The carbon bubble that hovers over our daily lives must be deflated and soon – not expanded exponentially.

There is tremendous opportunity for local Sullivan county government, business and homeowner investment in energy efficiency and renewable energy projects. The fact is that local demand for such investment is much higher than local capacity.

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