When I first began writing about energy on my personal blog, four years ago, I called for a War Against Oil.
There are still people who look at it that way. Richard Branson (right) for one. His Carbon War Room is a collection of activists, futurists and financiers dedicated, it says, to the fight against atmospheric carbon dioxide and global warming.
A noble goal, but I have concluded it’s not a winning frame.
Fact is there is a ton of money to be made in transforming our economy from the hunt for stuff we can burn to the gathering of energy all around us.
There is enough sunlight raining down on us every day to power the planet hundreds of times over. Enough geothermal energy boiling up from below us to power the 22nd century. The wind still blows. And science has shown us how we can balance all these inputs in harmony through the hydrogen cycle.
It may be true that we couldn’t harvest all this energy 80 years ago or even 40. We didn’t have the processing power needed to understand what was going on, to model it for ourselves, or the materials science necessary to collect, transport and distribute it.
But now we do. The renewable energy boom rides on the processing and communications power we have built in my time, and maybe it’s no coincidence that the latest turn of the technology wheel is so vast and amorphous that it’s simply known as the cloud.
Here are just a few stories from the last week I glanced at coming into work:
- China is moving to integrate solar energy into the design of new buildings.
- NASA has launched its first solar sail, which could lead to tests of orbiting solar power plants.
- The Department of Defense is testing solar concentrators at two military bases.
- HeliaTek of Germany has followed Konarka in delivering thin films with an efficiency approaching that of silicon.
- Princeton scientists have demonstrated a technique for replacing expensive indium in solar cells with plastic.
- And even failed companies are seeing their work picked up by others.
Instead of talking the language of war, the market is talking the language of profit. We can take politics out of the equation, stop fighting against one another and start fighting the common enemy, the limits on growth imposed by reliance on dwindling resources.
I know Al Gore has a dream, and Richard Branson has a dream, but I have a different dream. Stock markets are rising, growth is accelerating, while the price of oil, coal and natural gas are falling through the floor. My dream not only saves the planet, but ends most of the other conflicts now bedevilling this sad old orb.
And every reader of this site is a soldier in that effort. There is no reason why capitalism and environmentalism need to be enemies. You’re proving that every day.