Address to the Organizing Conference of the American Council for Renewable Energy

Hermann Scheer addresses the future of Renewable Energy.

In my address to the Organizing Conference of the ACRE I am going to talk about the necessity for putting Renewable Energies in place, for the assurance of life on Earth. There is no time to waste. It must be done before they say we waited too long. The main task of supporters of Renewable Energy is to stimulate this change. The question is: how to do it? The Swiss author Max Frisch once wrote in his play “The fire raisers”: “Many things may start a fire, But not every fire that starts Is the work of inexorable fate. It is unworthy of God, Unworthy of man, To call a stupidity fate Simply because it has happened. Monstrous events, Even the total destruction of a city, Are mischief. Mischief that wipes out Our mortal fellow citizen. The man who acts so No longer deserves God’s earth, Nor the air that he breathes, Nor the sun. Bestow not the name of fate Upon mankind’s mistake, Even the worst, Beyond our power put out” The global dominance of fossil/nuclear consumption turned into a global pyromania during modern times. This development is not a definite fate. The alternative is the replacement of these energy options by Renewable Energy. Renewable Energy is the fire extinguisher. The most important challenge of the 21st century is to organize this replacement in time. To achieve this objective successfully, more than just the substitution of energy sources and technologies is required. It requires a new paradigm on energy in science, economics and politics. The conventional approach of energy science, energy economy and energy policy is responsible for all the mental and structural barriers against Renewable Energy. Max Planck, the Nobel laureate in physics, summed up his experiences about a new paradigm being generally accepted as follows: “As a principle, a new scientific view does not succeed by convincing its opponents and making them see the light, but rather its opponents die out and a new generation grows up familiar with it.” However, the dynamic acceleration of Renewable Energy must happen in the lifetime of our generation, because we are running out of time: there is no doubt that Renewable Energy will replace nuclear and fossil energy due to their limited resources anyway. But it would be worse for human civilisation, if the transformation to Renewable Energy will be further postponed. Business-as-usual seems realistic, but it is unrealistic in order to solve the increasing global energy crisis, which is endangering all what we have, what we want and what people need and desire. There are three principle differences between fossil and nuclear energy on the one hand and Renewable Energy on the other hand . All three of them are favouring Renewable Energy. Firstly, fossil and nuclear energies are exhaustible, secondly, they damage human life conditions by its pollution and, thirdly, they create existential dependencies for people and their societies. In contrast to these negative qualities, Renewable Energies are inexhaustible, they can be used in harmony with nature and create independency and liberation from captivity by global fossil energy chains. The third difference is ignored more often in the energy debate than the other two. It is the most politically one. Indigenous Renewable Energy sources help to overcome international conflicts on limited fossil resources. In this context I want to bring back to your attention the Pentagon study from 1980 “Dispersed, Decentralized and Renewable Energy Sources: Alternatives to National Vulnerability and War,” elaborated by the Energy Defence Project of the Pentagon. The hope of President Eisenhower expressed in his famous speech “Atoms for Peace” in 1953 to the UN General Assembly can only be fulfilled by Renewable Energy. “Solar for Peace” is the message of our time. Energy consumption is always decentralised, everywhere people live and work. Nevertheless, since nuclear and fossil energies became dominant worldwide they lead automatically to highly centralised international supplying structures, because these sources can be found only at very few places on our planet. In consequence, energy production and energy consumption decoupled more and more worldwide. Domestic Renewable Energy offers the opportunity for all societies to re-link energy supply and demand on national, regional and local level. They are the basic requirement for renewing our economies. Demonstrating these three differences is the first and most important element of a new mental and practical approach toward energy. In other words, even if there will be no global CO2-problem, there are many important reasons to overcome the present energy system. Remember the forceful debate and ambitious programs in the US for Renewable Energy in the 70s, originated by the Nixon and Carter administrations: The two main reasons were national energy security and clean air for the people! The second element of a new approach toward Renewable Energy is that we should finish the discussions about considering the transition to Renewable Energies as an economic burden. Everything that is seen as a burden will lead to endless debates and to an international bazaar on burden sharing. Instead, we should be aware of and inform our societies and governments about the many benefits of Renewable Energies. Some of them can be shown in an actual commercial balance sheet, some not. However, there will be in no way a burden, if we are going to change the priority of policies by cutting futureless expenditures and pushing Renewable Energy as the real future option. The third element is the contradiction to wish at the same time an acceleration in the introduction of Renewable Energy and a broad consensus about it. All front-running policy-decisions for Renewable Energy in my country were adopted in a conflict and not in a consensus. In fact, if policy decision makers call for a consensus, then they are usually not really committed and have always excuses for postponements. If they want to bring about a matter, they do not wait for a consensus and call it leadership and they try to convince the people. Renewable Energy promotion is a matter of leadership toward a better future. The fourth element: it is easier than expected to convince people for a Renewable Energy strategy – if it is defined as a general national and global mission. This does not only require the demonstration of their benefits, but also to do it in a non-offensive way. For this, it is necessary to create public confidence in Renewable Energy by contradicting the many underestimations of their potential. People take nuclear and fossil energies as indispensable as long as they do believe that the contribution of Renewable Energy to the overall energy supply can be only very small. The real truth is: Renewable Energy can dispense all other energy sources, not from one day to the other, but in the run of perhaps five decades. Part 2 of this address will appear next week.
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