Energy and tunnel vision

Two articles in today’s Guardian shout to me for action – and understanding.  One, likely to be repeated in other papers, warns that increasing energy prices will leave one in five households in fuel poverty.  The other reports on a crisis war game played in the US in which their oil supplies are threatened.

In the UK no one seems to be really asking why energy prices – and that includes petrol and diesel as well as domestic supplies – are going up.  People are hardly even expressing concern that more and more of our fuels are being imported, and imported from countries that have no real allegiance to the UK.

In the US this bunch of top ex-civil servants and industry leaders seems to have forgotten the 1970s, when US oil extractions started falling dramatically and, except for Alaska, have fallen ever since.

Have our leaders forgotten what they were taught at school – that fossil fuels are a finite resource, made long ago in pre-history?  Has power gone to their heads, so that they feel that they can disregard fundamental resource limits?

There is a solution.  But the leadership needed is not the ‘bull in a china shop’ approach of these scenario players.  Nor is it the weak wristed tweaking of energy-saving schemes being planned in the UK – though at least this will help a little.

What is needed is a new vision for weaning every country off fossil fuels and onto renewable energies.  And it can be done without worsening the recent appalling carbon dioxide emission levels.  Doing this will also reduce the threat of unrest and violence from people and countries whose livelihoods are threatened.

In the UK an example of ‘how’ is provided by the Centre for Alternative Technology in their Zero Carbon Britain 2030 report.  And I’m told that Australia is looking at a similar vision targeting 2020.

Stepping into the unknown can be frightening.  But this is more like stepping round the edge of a chasm.

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