Is a global transformation away from coal (the main source for our electricity) and oil (the main fuel for our transportation) vitally necessary? Given the scale and scope of the modern global economy and the energy systems that drive it, will this transformation be the largest, most dramatic, and profound change to Humanity's mutually interdependent energy and political-economic systems in history? If so, how do we facilitate and manage this epochal transformation?
Many analyses show that most of the cheap oil and coal have been harvested and burned. As we respond by shifting to ever more difficult to harvest sources, it is almost certain that the price of fossil fuel energy will continue rising at an increasing rate. Therefore, a global transformation to new energy sources appears inevitable. If the transformation is delayed, the abruptness of price increases as we exhaust the ever declining reserves portend wrenching consequences.
The scientific consensus warns that fossil fuel consumption is dangerously increasing atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide which have already warmed the planet and could significantly and rapidly change Earth's climate. If the threat proves to be as dangerous as some of the dire warnings project, we will regret not having started the global energy transformation with alacrity yesterday.
Since 2006, US oil energy consumption has been decreasing. Wind energy is the fastest growing source of new energy production worldwide. Is the global energy transformation already underway? How might it emerge and develop?
Assuming we all agree that global energy transformation is desirable and/or inevitable, how do we manage this change? Can it be done in 10 years? What would it take? What can you do to help? What do you need to know so that you are not harmed by the roiling changes to our global energy system which seem to be afoot?
Dian Grueneich suggests that the transformation requires the retrofitting of nearly every residential and commercial building to achieve massive energy efficiency improvements. When are you planning to retrofit your house or business to dramatically reduce your energy consumption?
Throughout history epochal change in the energy profile of a society has had profound impacts for its people and its economy (for example when humanity started using fire or in the middle ages when water and wind power was tapped to replace animal power which competed for limited cropland and prepared the path to the industrial revolution spurred by the transformation to coal). Will the current transformation introduce a new era in the history of civilization? What might be the character of this new era?
Jeannie and I recently earned "statements of accomplishment" in the excellent on-line course Global Sustainable Energy: Past, Present and Future with Wendell A. Porter of the University of Florida.
We are also planning to "take" Energy 101 with Michael Webber at University of Texas at Austin which starts on September 15th (the week after this meetup).