“We live in a civilization with an ever-increasing hunger for energy and its fixation on fossil fuels to provide that energy is in the process of imploding on itself as our population grows and its demographics change. Yet we live in a world of tough realities – where an elegant solution simply does not exist. We are constantly told that renewable energy is too expensive but, all things considered, it is actually cheaper than traditional energy sources!”
This opening quote is a clip from a November 22nd Press Release that was sent to me featuring Craig Shield’s position on a host of related questions surrounding climate control and global warming. Craig is the founder of 2GreenEnergy. He is also the author of “Renewable Energy - Facts and Fantasies: The Tough Realities as Revealed in Interviews with 25 Subject Matter Experts” (Clean Energy Press).
In reply, I pushed back in an email with my own interest and concern of “…(the) impact of water being used for fracking (hydraulic fracturing) of natural gas - we can live without natural gas, but we can't live without (clean) water” and that “… no one seems to be able to roll out a cost effective alternative to oil, coal, or nuclear power.” Offering to have an open discussion on my challenge by phone, Craig was very generous with his time and desirous to talk openly about this topic.
It’s this on-going debate of climate control (and global warming) versus “an elegant solution simply does not exist” or “renewable energy is too expensive” that gnaws at me. After talking to Craig, I was reminded of Robert Schuller's book title, “If It's Going to Be, It's up to Me”. This is something we have to attack from a personal level; it’s not going to be resolved in the short term by governments or industry.
As luck would have it, our conversation took place just ahead of the recent (194-party conference) U.N. climate talks in Durban, South Africa. From the short time of our conversation until now, stories have surfaced talking about how “modest accomplishments” were made at the talks, a local wind power project in my area (North Carolina) has stalled due to “utilities have decided the project's power is too costly”, solar-product makers are on the ropes due in part to “weak demand, low prices”, and just yesterday the story about new power plant (EPA) rules will lead to higher consumer energy prices and a loss of jobs. This morning brought news of the possibility of higher domestic natural gas prices as a result of U.S. exports from the newly developed shale gas supplies.
What I most enjoyed about my conversation with Craig was his willingness to listen yet vigorously confront topics head-on. Also, he seems to understand both sides of the coin of: “…the political, economic, and technology trends that, when fully understood, influence clean energy business strategies.” As I told him over the phone, “It’s a good thing we’re not sitting in a coffee shop somewhere – we’d certainly draw an audience.” But I will admit, I would love to have had the experience of seeing peoples’ faces as we bantered about; well-behaved, but passionate.
Although I would like to take the step forward, I still struggle getting past the investment in solar panels on an individual consumer level. Also, I would like to put in a geothermal (heat pump) field for my home heating and air-conditioning. I have looked into wind power, too. But, each one seems to be greeted with the same barriers to entry: high initial cost, no life-cycle payback, and local regulations (including homeowner association covenants) that make it nearly impossible to install something on a meaningful scale. Local utility agreements and governing bodies can also govern your ability to sell or get credit for any excess power you may be able to generate on your own.
Craig brought forward many incentives for us to change our ways; from the staggering costs of healthcare as a result of pollution to the reliance on foreign nations, or a desire to take control of our own energy destiny through independence. He has a positive outlook and believes that we can “get there by 2050”. What seems to concern Craig is the next decade of 2011-2020. Again, it comes back to what we can do as individuals. The time to act is now. The lingering question is, what are you (and me) going to do about it?