In reviewing this blog’s history of Posts I am aware that some will see a contradiction between my strong support for a renewable energy future and my acceptance of the inevitability of fracking for shale gas and oil (see ‘Fracking: The Promise And The Problems’) and my reluctant support for building the Keystone XL pipeline (see ‘Keystone XL Pipeline: A Memorandum To The President’). Here is a bit more of the thinking that has gone into those positions, which make sense at least to me.
In an ideal world I would move as rapidly as possible to an energy system based largely on renewable energy in all it’s various forms (solar, wind, biomass, …..) and reduce our current dependence on carbon-rich fossil fuels (coal, oil, natural gas). Unfortunately, renewable energy is not yet ready to assume such a role, which will take money and time. We also cannot deprive people of access to energy during the transition period. Today’s global energy system is largely dependent upon fossil fuels (coal and natural gas for electricity, oil for transportation) and changing this picture with its in-place infrastructure and vested interests will not be easy or quick. This puts me in the class of ‘pragmatic’ renewable energy advocates, but one who believes that we can move much more rapidly toward that future with appropriate national energy policies in place. I have commented on the need for such a policy in earlier blogs (see ‘The Beginnings of a U.S. Energy Policy’ and ‘We Need A Carbon Tax’).
One final thought: as I think about this apparent ‘conflict’ in my views I am aware of my strong feeling that, ultimately, the real villain in this piece is ourselves with our insatiable and ever-growing demand for energy services. Some people lack even minimal access to such services and deserve more. Many of us have easy access to such services and need to use that access more wisely. Reducing demand growth and even overall demand would reduce the pressure for new fossil fuel and electricity resources, reduce international tensions, and allow a more stable and rapid transition to the inevitable and highly desired renewable energy future. I hope many others will comment on these complex issues as well.