Are global warming and energy security fact or fiction, natural or anthropogenic, controllable or uncontrollable, costly or without economic impact, a basis for energy independence or a cause for dependency?
From the first recorded incident of "human-induced pollution" and the warming trends of the 20th century to the current stalemate created by political realities, economic conditions and "Climategate," there has not been a direction that makes sense. These events have set the stage for more confusion with the vast stream of contradictory information provided by believers, unbelievers.
These diverging beliefs present a considerable challenge to all sovereign nations. To the extent that these opposing viewpoints exist, the growing chasm inhibits constructive action. The purpose of this discussion is not to prove or disprove the views of either side. It is intended to review these issues in order to find a common pathway for all countries to move forward in a collective and constructive manner.
Search for Unification
Regardless of whether mankind is or is not responsible for climate change, or whether global warming actually exists, what is certain is the mutual desire of all nations for energy independence and security. Nations cannot afford to be held hostage by any sovereign government for a commodity such as oil that is so crucial to the overall performance of their economy. The building blocks necessary to ensure energy security include:
This brings us to a common ground - we must find a way to reduce our reliance on oil.. This becomes as much a national security as an economic issue.
What Do We Believe?
To put the issue into proper perspective, the United Nations ranks China (6.1), U.S. (5.7), Russia (1.56), India (1.51), and Japan (1.3) as the top carbon dioxide-producing nations (total CO2 emissions in billion metric tons per year). From another perspective, on a per capita basis, U.S. (18.67), Canada (16.08), Saudi Arabia (13.30), Russia (11.03), and Japan (10.14) are the primary producers of CO2 emission (metric tons per person per year). China and India, which are listed as top CO2 emitters on a per country basis are well below the other countries in terms of per capita CO2 emissions, i.e., 4.57 and 1.29 metric tons per person per year, respectively.
Concurrently, there is a growing sentiment around the world that global warming and climate change from fossil fuels is not real. The question then becomes how countries become unified in taking immediate and proactive action to move away from an oil economy.
Dollars and Sense
Since economics is a key driving force behind many changes, it is important to understand the price we pay for fossil fuels in a holistic view. Does the current at-the-pump price of about $2.70 USD per gallon in the U.S. represent its true cost? If not, then what is the true cost of petroleum and what are the ramifications of a potentially deflated price? Outside of the unlikely event that petroleum would lose its subsidies, the U.S. seem to take a wait-and-see attitude for the price to rise again. Be it a natural catastrophe to cripple supply; an outbreak of violence in an oil-producing nation; or another price increase by Big Oil due to high demand, short supplies or to make excessive profits; eventually the fuse will be ignited to blast into action those nations who were asleep-at-the-switch.
Go New and Be Smart
Renewable sources of energy derived from solar, wind, geothermal, and biomass are making headway in the public and private sectors of most nations. Adoption is limited by what is called "reliability," i.e., having a steady supply of energy when and where needed. Furthermore, to ensure a reliable supply of energy during times of peak demand, it is necessary to incorporate a means to store energy during off-peak hours. This enhancement drives up the cost of renewable energy.
Underneath all of these impediments lies an energy savings approach or sustainability, which is pragmatic, immediately adoptable and impactful. Call it better utilization of resources, best methods, smart living, waste reduction or environmental stewardship; sustainable energy practices may be the starting point to measurably reduce the use of carbon-based fuels.
Energy sustainability is that part of the equation that is justifiable and immediately accountable through bottom line return on investments. Energy savings is no longer only a smart way of doing things but a necessity for companies wanting to improve their balance sheet, compete worldwide and reduce overhead expenses. Households similarly benefit from lower utility costs through energy efficient techniques. Dedicated and properly designed energy-savings methods can reduce energy costs and provide both short- and long-term financial benefits.
It's About Us
Forget about global warming, melting ice, rising seas and smog-blanketed cities. Focus instead on our position in the global market and the financial implications of using fossil fuel and foreign oil. In 2008, 25% of the major oil importing nations spent about $1.3 million per minute, $1.8 trillion per day and over $650 trillion a year on foreign oil (derived from: Key World Energy Statistics for the IEA ). This alone should be a sufficient warning that business-as-usual no longer applies.
Viewing the use of petroleum as a major security and economic concern will bridge the "believers" with the "unbelievers." Then we, the developed and emerging nations of the world, can serendipitously work together to make significant gains toward both energy savings and a cleaner environment, regardless of whatever impact fossil fuels may have in causing global warming and climate change.
In closing: it's about us, humanity and our future. To ensure for our national security and economic strength and to provide for a cleaner and healthier environment, we need to resolve to become energy efficient and self-sufficient. By necessity, this will lead to significant energy savings and the adoption of clean and domestically produced energy sources. Only through these actions can we, as nations, ensure that our children and future generations will have any measure of opportunity in a rapidly-shifting global landscape. It requires leadership, enlightenment, courage and common sense to move forward.
Barry Stevens, Ph.D.,has just been appointed as President & CEO of ArcAngel Technologies.