Those who know me, know that I am a proponent for clean energy and that I strongly believe all forms of fossil fuels need be eliminated without delay. It is the only viable approach if we want to avoid the extinction of the human race within the next 1000 years. At the same time I am concerned at how clean energy is presented to the public and how it is made available. For example, LPG is portrayed as a clean fuel which is environmentally friendly – this is a fallacy. LPG is still a fossil fuel and produces harmful chemicals when burnt. The real truth is that LPG produces less of these harmful chemicals than other fuels such as diesel or petrol, but they are still there. LPG IS NOT A CLEAN OR ENVIRONMENTALLY FRIENDLY FUEL!!
My biggest concern though, is the availability and affordability of clean energy to the public in general. We’ve heard of the cultural divide, the educational divide and even the technological divide. I am of the firm belief that we are entering the era of the energy divide. The problem is that while the technology is available, it is not readily affordable. For example, in a country such as Malta solar energy is abundant due to our having in excess of 300 days of sunshine a year. Yet we don’t see solar panels on every roof. Why?
The problem boils down to affordability. Panels are still expensive and it isn’t economically viable to invest in them. The same is true for electric cars, with for example the best electric car on the market, the Tesla S, starting at approximately $70,000. Due to human nature, if one does not perceive a relatively quick short term personal gain the end result will be a resistance to investing in such technology. Personally I feel this is a very selfish and anal retentive outlook but unfortunately that’s human nature for you!
My comments are of course unfair to those who really can’t afford this technology, and that’s were the energy divide raises its head. While clean tech may be expensive there are often special grants or subsidies to help people invest in clean tech. Unfortunately, these are often not enough and often still preclude the middle and lower class from looking into clean tech. For example, if one lives in a flat or apartment, while one might afford solar panels, there’s nowhere for this one to place them. It might be possible to try to come to an agreement with the rest of the tenants but I’m sure you’d agree that this is highly impractical. This also assumes that there’s actually space on the roof for panels in the first place and that it hasn’t been taken up by a penthouse! On a similar note – want an electric car? Sure, you might afford it but where are you going to charge it if you don’t have a garage?
What’s the solution? Industry needs to dedicate more time and resources to developing clean, affordable and efficient tech. Governments should provide real and better incentives for clean tech and heavily penalise the public using the polluter pays principle. In the long run we all stand to gain both financially but more importantly environmentally.
To be honest I am somewhat of a realist too and I am of the opinion that the energy divide will continue to grow. I have little confidence in incentives offered by public entities as more often than not the benefits they offer are of little real value. The only time we, i.e. humanity, take real constructive action is when we have our backs to the wall. When it comes to the environment I think that it would be already too late. I hope I am wrong, I really do. Time will tell, but it will be our children and our children’s children who will suffer the consequences or reap the rewards.