Rome wasn’t built in a day. Neither will the wholesale transformation of our energy systems. Currently, they are heavily grounded on fossil fuels because coal, gas, and oil were cheap and readily available.
It took two centuries after fossil fuel use began for science and subtle changes in climate measures to begin to convince humankind that, first, the true costs of burning fossil fuels for energy were much, much higher once the secondary costs were factored in and second, that, whatever those costs, continued use of fossil fuels is unacceptable on its face. Humankind must begin the transformation to renewable sources of energy, immediately . . . if not sooner! Last I looked, humankind includes Maine and its inhabitants.
The changes entailed are massive, and disciplined, imaginative, and grounded thinking will need to be undertaken to assure that both the economic and emotional costs of the transitions we face are bearable and fairly distributed.
The implications and the ‘how to’ of freeing Mainers and the rest of humankind from burning fossil fuels for energy can be anticipated. Local initiatives and policies supportive of them can be taken, but only if the thinking underpinning it all is sufficiently long range and comprehensive. Consider:
What are all the steps it will take to transform Maine from gasoline/diesel powered vehicles to electric? From gas stations to charging stations? From centrally generated power to decentrally generated power? From providing power to managing the grid? Becoming comfortable with scheduling daily activities in terms of the availability of wind and sun? Designing and building new infrastructures for “water and weight” energy storing mechanisms so that when the original energy source is temporarily absent gravity can be employed to recreate electricity to keep the grids ‘live’? How can major improvement in emergent technologies (e.g., hydrogen fuel, wave power, tidal flow, etc.) be projected into the planning? If Maine take the strides we should, how might delays elsewhere affect our livelihood and/or how can we ride with it until they catch up (e.g., what if we — like Norway and the Netherlands — move to all-electric vehicles, how do we accommodate visitors coming from ‘away’ still driving their last gas (last ‘gasp‘ ??) cars?) How can we assure that the money we’ve been spending for fossil fuels can be reallocated for Maine internal expenditures not only to pay all the costs of the transition but the new costs associated with climate changes that occur because recognition came to late to prevent them? Such questions and their answers (and many, many others just like them) can be fully explored only across decades.
Thinking through, identifying steps, making choices means thinking at least four decades ahead. What can and should be done now? What could then be done next? In order for Maine to achieve energy independence through indigenous source renewables by 2030, what steps have to be charted and achieved by when?
Such thinking proceeds through alternatives. It branches outward from the present more than focusing predictively on a single point. It needs to be done transparently so that its accessible to to everyone who cares to look, for there’s no telling where a crucial insight about what’s being discussed can come from.
Very few of us now think this way. The very few must become the many. Defying the image of older folks as sticks in the mud, those of us who have lived a couple of forty-year timespans may have much more to contribute to such explorations than anyone may imagine.
September 29, 2016