Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Blue Planet: build energy coalition now

One overarching conclusion of the recent Blue Planet Summit is that it's time for disparate communities to join in the common goal of reducing oil dependence—to form what might be called ecumenical energy coalitions.
Ultimately, whether the concern is climate change, or terrorism, or nuclear proliferation in oil-rich states, or the fear of supply disruption, or oil spills, or the economic disruption caused by sending billions of American dollars abroad, summit participants generally agreed that petroleum and our dependence on it is a corrosive force in our world.
“We need a coalition—a big one—and the bigger the better,” said venture capitalist James Woolsey, former U.S. Director of Central Intelligence, who has solar photovoltaic panels on his roof, in part to fuel his plug-in hybrid car.
The four-day Blue Planet Summit, convened by software wizard Henk Rogers, brought together world leaders in energy, including a Nobel laureate, indigenous people from America and the Pacific, environmentalists, a utility firm, conservation folks, media, financial experts, alternative energy advocates and a significant film crew to document the proceedings.
Woolsey said there ultimately is little value in fighting over whether the measured warming in the world is caused by humans or isn't. Clearly, the warming is happening, and clearly, there is some percentage of likelihood it could have severe consequences.
“Catastrophic change is at least possible...It is a risk and we ought to deal with it,” Woolsey said.
Climatologist Stephen Schneider said it's possible to have multiple reasons for doing the right thing, and he urged participants at the summit to “build the political coalitions.”
“We have to stir some stuff up,” said Denis Hayes, coordinator of the first Earth Day. “Stop talking about climate and talk about energy.”
It's not even that it costs a lot, said Hunter Lovins, president of Natural Capitalism Solutions.
“You can go half the way to decarbonizing at a profit” and use the savings the fund the rest of the voyage toward an economy that runs on efficiency and renewables.
“We have all the technology we need. We just need to begin,” she said.
Mina Morita, a Hawaii state representative from Kaua'i, said it is a moral imperative to move forward, and she argued that the direction comes best when it comes from the bottom and moves up.
“When people lead, politicians follow,” Morita said.
Robert F. Kennedy Jr. argued: “The only way you save the environment is if you have a democracy that works.”
The message about the need to move away from fossil fuels is not lost on utilities. An oil-based system “is no longer tenable,” said Robbie Alm, an executive vice president of Hawaiian Electric.
(Disclosure: The author of this article attended the conference, moderated a panel discussion, and helped summarize its contents for summit participants.)
© 2008 Jan W. TenBruggencate