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Our current battle within the energy ecosystems- fossil fuel or fossil humans?

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Paul Hobcraft's picture
Innovation Knowledge Provider Agility Innovation

I work as a transition advocate for innovation, ecosystems, within IIoT, and the energy system as my points of focus. I relate content to context to give greater knowledge and build the...

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  • Aug 13, 2021
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We are currently locked into a ‘battle of energy ecosystems.’ Our very existence requires one side to win; it simply must not just survive but rebalance the planet ecosystem, the only one we have.

This current ecosystem battle is between those highly vested in today’s fossil-based energy supply system and those forcing change into a more renewable reliant energy system as quickly as possible.

We are pushing so much of the principles and theories of ecosystems to the maximum test in the outcomes we wish to achieve in the energy transition we require.

We determine our future planet and what defines a healthy ecosystem in a very ad-hoc, self-determining and self-interest way. The ambitions of so many vested interests need fresh evaluations in any new socio-economic structure.

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Unhealthy aspects of ecosystems (carbon dioxide and GHG)  need to be eliminated and removed, the rest of the ecosystem has to respond to danger, they need to remove the threats to the greater environment, or they will all be caught up in that threatening force all around them, to eventually die or radically alter.

We must bring these two competing energy views into a balance. A balance that allows the planet to return to one where we, as humans, can be more in harmony with all around us, in the air we breathe, in sharing this earth in its diversity of resources, living creatures, and what it offers in natural wonder.

To drive change, as we must, in our energy system, we must challenge and reevaluate so many industrial and national policies, to be integrated into a new world order. We must determine who can bring this new order as I presently can’t see our existing global institutions equipped or mandated to enact this. We are failing to manage energy in this ecosystem way.

This week we had a real glimpse of reality.

On Monday 9th August saw the release of the 6th Climate assessment by the IPCC. It is a grim, sobering read. Also, it is a staggering 3,949 pages long!

So in a short, simple summary.

If we continue not to stop our carbon emissions, then it will lead to devastating lives and disrupting nearly all of us humans, in one way or another.

Put, if we do not get Carbon Dioxide out of our energy mix as fast as we can, then the price of inaction affects us all. Yet to mobilize the World in today’s environment is very hard to believe will happen.

This is a real climate emergency; do not doubt it.

We are in a climate emergency, but most do not see it or want to accept it.

The need to get carbon dioxide and all the other greenhouse gases lie within our need for energy. The source today and for the past, hundred or so years has been based on fossil fuels (coal, oil and then gas).

Can we shift away from these quickly enough so clean energy provided by sustainable sources can replace them? It is a major complex challenge.

This energy transition is genuinely an ecosystem of epic proportions.

The energy (eco) system is not impacting many; it is affecting us all; we are all impacted. We need to recognize that the energy transition, as its end product, electricity, is what we all have become highly dependent upon. Electricity is powering and linking into each of our economies, into our societies. Yet we face a stark choice for our earth of how this electricity is generated, through fossil fuels or clean, renewable sources.

Should we allow energy to continue on its current system, reliant on fossil fuels, old, inadequate energy systems, and infrastructure solutions? Or do we finally recognize that power solutions need to change radically into energy sources, based more on renewables, that provide cleaner, more naturally sustaining environments based on wind, the sun, and natural conversion of water or the increased use of biomass?

Moving to renewables

The move towards renewables means a redesign of our energy source and supply systems to combine these different energy sources; we have the chance to reverse the current crisis our world is facing, of rapid climate warming and significant degradation of the environment.

Of course, there is today a very popular “soundbite” of “we want to ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable, and modern energy for all.”  Yet to achieve this does mean we face one of the biggest challenges we will face up to in this century, or perhaps when you look back, within any century.  This energy transition is as big as it can get. The prize is a return to a planet we can live upon in healthy ways, not one of “affordable energy.”

Ecosystems can evolve naturally, given time, but we presently do not have the luxury of developing over extended time and adjustment. We much (attempt) to manage or engineer this energy transition ecosystem in a few short decades.

The entrenched fossil reliant energy system must migrate towards the clean energy future we urgently require to allow for our planet to return to a balanced one.

If we as humans want to lead healthy lives, we need this balance with what this earth offers, to live alongside other creatures, plants, and in what nature provides, and value this completely different. It is not simply trying to extract or be the ultimate judge over parts of the ultimate ecosystem; we need to stop imposing just our needs.

Managing the energy transition is vital to that as it may be essential to our world. Still, its present byproduct is polluting or poisoning our planet’s environment with significant carbon emissions. We need to provide a more sustainable future for all living things on this one planet of ours in the use of clean energy that does not burden or impact our “living” system.

Today we are witnessing the degradation of this one vital ecosystem we are all utterly dependant upon, our planet.

We are moving towards a crisis due to the over influence we as a human has imposed. We are facing such far-reaching change and well-being in industrial and rural regions in how we live.

If we do not tackle our energy system by replacing the current carbon-driven economy with one based on clean, renewable energy generation, we will pay the price of this in providing an environment we will find increasingly hard to exist in ways we currently know.

If we continue to contribute to greenhouse gas emissions, it will become increasingly unhealthy, but it will change for much of our living as we know, and I am not sure the human race will be able to adapt.

In their latest REPORT, the IPCC has provided new, powerful means for everyone everywhere to hold the fossil fuel industry and governments directly responsible for the climate emergency. Can we change such an energy ecosystem in such a short period?

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Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 13, 2021

"Yet we face a stark choice for our earth of how this electricity is generated, through fossil fuels or clean, renewable sources."

You present a false dichotomy, Paul. It's at odds with the assessment of  leading climate scientists around the world, who agree: "Nuclear power paves the only viable path forward on climate change."

Paul Hobcraft's picture
Paul Hobcraft on Aug 14, 2021

Bob we "ding" each other fairly constantly, keeps me honest. Nuclear is a real part of the solution, no question in my mind. I separated energy here into fossil and renewables, maybe I should call them dirty vs clean

The Nuclear debate of being part of the solution not one of the problems has to reemerge

I wrote these two posts recently

https://energycentral.com/c/cp/molten-salt-nuclear-reactors-so-what%E2%8...

https://energycentral.com/c/gn/elephant-should-be-more-energy-debate-nuc...

False dichotomy- yep you are right but my point was to place the reader into the two extremes of Fossil or Renewables.

As I said Bob glad you are rightly pointing out it is not a simple either/or option when, in reality, there are more possible options available than just the chosen two I used here.

Bob Meinetz's picture
Bob Meinetz on Aug 14, 2021

Paul, thanks for clarification.

Here in CA, terminology is a point of contention - state legislators have deliberately excluded nuclear energy from consideration for meeting our 2030 climate goal to force the shutdown of our last remaining nuclear plant (Diablo Canyon's operating licenses must be renewed by 2025-26). How? By stipulating only "renewable" solutions will be rewarded by state subsidies until 2030, then all "zero-carbon" sources thereafter.

Nationwide, there's a bitter race to shut down nuclear plants by natural gas interests, which viewed Fukushima as a window of opportunity to exploit public fear. That window is closing fast, as Americans realize any risks are far outweighed by those from climate change.

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Aug 17, 2021

"...the two extremes of Fossil or Renewables."

Paul, in most ways, it is actually fossil and nuclear energy that represent the extremes (the highest and lowest impact on the environment), with renewables in the middle (when bio-energy is included) at least for air pollution and CO2 emissions.  For land use, renewables and nuclear are at the extremes, with fossil in the middle, because renewables use much more land and have much more negative impact on wildlife.

Hypothetically, if there were only 70 million people in the world instead of 7 billion, renewables would be great for such a world.  But of course per capita prosperity would be much lower in such a world, because even when we aren't trying to, we still work as a team via economies of scale.

Matt Chester's picture
Matt Chester on Aug 17, 2021

with renewables in the middle (when bio-energy is included) at least for air pollution and CO2 emissions

Is it necessary to batch renewables in that way, though? Why not assess each individual renewable (bioenergy vs. solar vs. wind vs. geothermal vs....) since they have such different measures of impact, land use, costs, etc.? 

Nathan Wilson's picture
Nathan Wilson on Aug 18, 2021

Renewables are usually pitched as a group, perhaps because their individual weaknesses are rather well known, and we are meant to believe the weaknesses will sort of average out.  Taken individually, each is very poorly matched to the needs of electricity users, thus they have a pretty convincing dependence on fossil fuel.  So individually, they are all dirty and climate destroying (although less so than fossil fuel alone).

As a group, the weakness are reduced, but so are the strengths.

Rick Engebretson's picture
Rick Engebretson on Aug 14, 2021

If nuclear fueled electric power generation is the global solution, then children need to be back in schools. None of the needed physical or human resources currently exist.

Getting real science is also a challenge. Good luck with your solar panels and windmills, just don't destroy the earth to save the earth. And good luck drilling for oil and gas.

As an old firewood user I have learned the fuel value of biomass strongly depends on fuel preparation. As an older Biophysical Chemist I believe the even older Biophysical Chemist Linus Pauling has written well about the "Nature of the Chemical Bond," as have many others. Liquid and gas fuels derived from biomass are appealing and "Green."

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