Here is an interesting idea, or rather something that needs to be considered as more and more talks about climate change heat up.
As this topic seems to grab more and more headlines I think there are a few things that sometimes get lost in the debate, and this article states a major one.
The article talks about how long it would take us to build an infrastructure that would be conducive to renewable energy. Currently, everything we have built infrastructure wise has to do with fossil fuels and oil. From gas stations, to pipelines, building massive tankers to haul millions of gallons of crude all over the world, everything is set up perfectly for the current system we have in place. So if we were to finally make the decision to curb our appetite from oil and begin to use something like solar or wind, what is a reasonable time frame that a total reconstruction could take place.
The article says that it would take a period of about 30 years to build all the new stuff that we would need and an additional 20 or so of maintenance. So basically about 50 years we could completely have a new energy system in place that could replace our current one and be cleaner. I think this is something that many people have not considered. When this argument come up, I always hear the same things, basically that we need to invest more in renewable, which I would agree with. But as you can see this will not happen overnight.
What is interesting is that the article states that our current electricity grid would not need much changed, as it would be able to handle the transition albeit a few minor adjustments with wattage. Other than that it seems that it would be mostly a easy transition for that aspect. What the article does not talk about and I think is more important is what will replace gas stations? Having homes and businesses running fully off solar power would be a huge jump, but if every car in the world still runs off fossil fuels I would think that we might be carbon neutral at best. Still that would be a huge step in the right direction, I don’t think that is where we want to be. So again what will replace gas stations? Well it would start with auto manufactures making a huge investment in electric cars, once that happens, then the charging stations I assume would follow. A sort of cause and effect, if you will.
I don’t want to get into which side is right on the climate change debate, but even if today a law was passed to being to tear down our old oil infrastructure it would take I would think at least 20 years to significantly make a change in the infrastructure itself as well as the carbon output in general. I am not saying that because this will take so long that we should not even do it, I am saying the opposite, that we should probably get started right away. There is really no reason to fully fund renewable technology and invest heavily in making this a reality.
I do not want to get too political but these are some of the biggest factors in making this happen. Let’s be honest, oil is what makes the world work, it drives everything, and every aspect of our lives. It is going to be very hard to just stop using it, and I don’t think that is a feasible option for anyone. It will take time, and a gradual shift will need to take place. In the meantime there is additional technology that could help while we make the transition.
A while back I found an article about these giant fans that can actually suck up air and pull out the CO2 in the air, in essence cleaning it. These fans could scrub the air of millions of tons of CO2 if implemented correctly. That would be a huge help during the transition period should we decide to fully create an infrastructure of renewables. As I mention in the post above this technology can be a blessing as well as a curse.
If we implement these fans, best case scenario, they could buy us time to fully invest and build a sustainable infrastructure, however it could also do such a good job that we abandon the building of the new infrastructure completely and rely on these fans to clean our atmosphere while we still use fossil fuels. All things being equal I really do not have a problem with this, as it will ultimately come down to what is cheaper. And I think we both know what will be cheaper.
In the long run though, I think that renewables are key to our energy needs. No matter what we do there is only a finite amount of fossil fuels on the planet, so eventually we will run out. Now that may not happen for hundreds maybe even thousands of years, but sooner or later it will happen. And yes I know technically the sun is also not going to last forever, but I will bet you that it will last a lot longer than the fossil fuels will. So again, for the future I think it would be better to make the transition now, but in spectacular human fashion I assume we will probably do nothing or what is minimally required. As I say that I am still going to drive my SUV to and from work and everywhere else spewing even more CO2 into the atmosphere, tomorrow is so far away.