Update on the global energy dilemma
The recent Japan nuclear disasters and their uncertain outcome are telling us once again that nuclear power and the very existence of nuclear weapons is hazardous to life for generations to come. Yet our leaders steadfastly continue to support ever more consumption of nuclear power and hydrocarbon energy in the face of obvious and overwhelming problems, where we need to phase out these energy sources and phase in a blend of totally new clean energy sources that would involve a publicly transparent research effort that should rival that of the Manhattan and Apollo projects.
Of all the polluting activities that humanity pursues, there is none more damaging to the environment than the abuse of energy. The extraction of oil, coal and uranium in increasingly sensitive ecosystems, their transport, their incineration and their disposal are causing more environmental havoc on Earth than any other single factor. But the awesome multitrillion dollar vested industrial interests have so far staved off any attempt to curb this extraction. Whether it’s the BP Gulf oil gusher, the Chevron-Texaco decimation of the Ecuadorian Amazon, the leveling of West Virginia mountaintops, the dirty extractions of tar sands in Alberta or the resulting deforestation and water and air pollution or earthquake-induced radiation emissions from nuclear power plants, the story is always the same: the vast extraction and burning of hydrocarbons are destroying the planet. The mandate to cut way back on coal, oil and nuclear use—now 80 percent of the world’s energy mix—is reinforced by the scientific consensus that the principal cause of global climate change and the acidification of the oceans is in fact the routine burning of hydrocarbons and uranium. Yet public policies remain unchanged, even in the face of our headlong race into ecological catastrophe. There is little time to spare before we experience an irreversible tipping point of instability in our climate and in our dying ecosystems. Is it not collective insanity for humanity to rely on such dirty energy? Our top priority should be the introduction of truly clean, sustainable energy.