Who Hijacked Our Country

Monday, April 14, 2014

Europe Shouldn't Submit to Vladimir Putin's Energy Blackmail

This column by Thomas Friedman Go Ahead, Vladimir, Make My Day may sound too optimistic or oversimplified, but I agree with him completely.  If Putin pulls the plug on Ukraine and the European Union, these countries will be in roughly the same position as the U.S. during the first Arab oil embargo in 1973.  Thomas Friedman says:

That 1973 embargo led to the first auto mileage standards in America and propelled the solar, wind and energy efficiency industries. A Putin embargo today would be even more valuable because it would happen at a time when the solar, wind, natural gas and energy efficiency industries are all poised to take off and scale.

Hal Harvey, C.E.O. of Energy Innovation, says:

“Clean energy is at an inflection point.  The price reductions in the last five years have been nothing less than spectacular: Solar cells, for example, have dropped in cost by more than 80 percent in the last five years. This trend is underway, if a bit less dramatically, for wind, batteries, solid state lighting, new window technologies, vehicle drive trains, grid management, and more. What this means is that clean energy is moving from boutique to mainstream, and that opens up a wealth of opportunities.”

And that's not all.  Opower is the name of a company that works with utility customers all over the country to help them reduce their electricity consumption.  Opower accomplishes this by helping people pinpoint exactly when their energy usage is the highest, and comparing people's energy usage with that of their neighbors.  This behavioral economics as Opower's co-founder calls it enables people to vastly reduce their energy usage without a lot of sacrifice.  Since 2007, Opower has enabled its customers to reduce their energy usage by four terawatt hours, which is the amount of energy produced by the Hoover Dam in one year.  Opower expects to soon be saving its customers that same amount of energy every year.

It's a start.  It's time for everybody to suck it up, bite the bullet and start our fossil fuels cold turkey NOW.

Another article How solar energy could be the key to reducing economic inequality reiterates the same points, that solar energy's availability is expanding exponentially:

Solar panels — the cost of which continues to massively decrease as the technology improves, and which are already as cheap as fossil fuels in some parts of the world — have the potential to create massive economic growth over the next two decades and beyond. The total solar energy hitting Earth each year is equivalent to...over 20,000 times more than the total energy that all of humanity consumes each year...Once solar is cheaper per watt than coal, oil, and natural gas, falling energy costs will provide massive relief to people squeezed in recent years by the rising cost of fossil fuel extraction...All else being equal, falling energy prices mean more disposable income to save and invest, or to spend. And because of the decentralized nature of solar energy, the benefits of cheap, plentiful energy can be realized by anyone with a solar panel, instead of being accrued by the capitalist who owns the coal mine, the power plant, or the oil well.

OK, what are we waiting for??? 

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Anonymous Screamin' Mimi said...

Personally I hope Putin oversteps himself, which he seems likely to do. Like Friedman, I believe there will be work-arounds to any embargo Putin decides to put into place. The global need to stop burning fossil fuels might need exactly this kick in the pants to be implemented. Wouldn't that be a great outcome?

April 17, 2014 at 12:28 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

SM: I agree. We need to switch over from fossil fuels to renewable energy sources, and the sooner the quicker. As a senile actor-cum-president used to say, "if not now, when?"

April 17, 2014 at 1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If we've learned so much from the 73 embargo, how come OPEC still regulates our gas prices and can send our economy tanking any time they feel like it?

And we only get what, 20-30% from them?


April 19, 2014 at 4:43 PM  
Blogger Tom Harper said...

Erik: Good question. There are so many articles saying that renewable energy sources are right on the verge of taking over and pushing fossil fuels out of the way; and so many other articles saying how dire it all is, that oil tankers and pipelines are multiplying and we're facing future oil spills that will dwarf the Exxon Valdez spill from 25 years ago. Just for my own sanity, I'd like to lean toward the optimistic articles.

April 20, 2014 at 8:44 PM  

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